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Psychologists report major concerns about reductions in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, UK

Senior mental health professionals working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are reporting major concerns about reductions in service for children with mental health problems.

These concerns and others listed were revealed in a 2014 survey of clinical psychologists* who are Society members and work across 43 separate specialist CAMHS. The picture that emerged was one of rising waiting times and a lack of age-appropriate services not prepared to intervene early, resulting in children and young people experiencing difficulties that are more complex and difficult to treat when they are finally seen.

BPS President-Elect Professor Jamie Hacker-Hughes said: “The Society welcomes the renewed focus from the NHS England and Department of Health taskforce report on prioritising CAMHS in England, as reported by BBC news. Our representative on this taskforce emphasised the need for an overhaul. We stressed this further in the Society’s response to the health select committee inquiry into child and adolescent mental health and CAMHS.

In particular we do welcome the acknowledgment of both the scale of the problem and the need for a radical re-think of how services for children, young people with mental health difficulties are conceptualised, commissioned and delivered. The Society survey confirmed significant unease in reductions in staffing, particularly of more highly skilled professionals. Some 62 per cent of services had decreased their overall staffing levels in last three years and 42 per cent reported further cuts were being planned.”

Other survey findings:

  • 71 per cent reported their service had tightened the acceptance criteria and raised the severity thresholds for being seen.
  • 54 per cent of respondents were concerned about the deterioration in provision for young people and families in crisis or in need of intensive treatment.
  • 46 per cent reported no out of hours service at all in their area.
  • Quality of provision had decreased in 66 per cent of services.
  • 56 per cent said availability of psychological therapies had decreased in last 3 years.
  • 53 per cent had seen a move to more diagnosis led, medicalised approaches.

Professor Jamie Hacker-Hughes said: “We are seriously concerned that over half of respondents reported a move to more diagnosis led, medicalised approaches given the significant weight of evidence in favour of psychological interventions for the majority of child mental health issues. We welcome opportunities to build on existing work and relationships with other professional groups and hope the taskforce report will help contribute towards the much needed implementation of essential service transformation for children and young people with mental health difficulties.”


* Members of the Division of Clinical Psychology’s Faculty of Children Young People, and their Families.

Source: British Psychological Society (BPS)