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Access and waiting times in children and young people's mental health services

This report includes the results of a freedom of information request to providers of specialist child and adolescent mental health services to explore access and waiting times for young people.

This report shows that over a quarter of young people referred to specialist mental health services are not accepted for treatment. Little progress has been made in reducing the high proportion of young people who are not accepted into specialist services despite having been referred by a concerned GP or teacher. While in some areas good quality early intervention services are in place to help these young people, these are not consistently provided across the country.

When referrals are accepted, young people in many areas are still waiting an unacceptably long time for treatment. The case for national waiting time standards to be put in place is therefore strong. Some progress is, however, being made in reducing waiting times to treatment, which may be due to the additional funding earmarked for children’s mental health services.
The forthcoming Green Paper on mental health and schools provides an ideal opportunity for the Government to address these concerns and to ensure that young people can access early intervention support in every area of the country, either in school or in the community. Training is also needed for teachers and others who refer young people to services to avoid delays and to ensure all professionals understand their roles within the system and how to get young people the help they need.

It is unfortunate that information on access and waiting times in child and adolescent mental health services is not publicly available and must be sought via the Freedom of Information Act. Data on access and waiting times must be regularly collected and published at a national level and for all providers as soon as possible, to increase transparency about the performance of the NHS on child and adolescent mental health.