Mental health service faces rising demand

Demands are rising on mental health services.
Demands are rising on mental health services.

Vulnerable children are at risk because an underfunded mental health service is struggling to cope with the demand.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Kirklees are “not fit for purpose” and unable to deal with rising numbers of young people needing help.

The service, which helps youngsters classed as having complex and persistent mental health disorders, was taken over by South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SWYT) two years ago.

It has since been hit by rising demand and has run into a backlog of children waiting to be seen.

A report to the NHS trust’s board said: “There is a growing recognition that the service is unable to meet the increasing demands, most immediately with regard to emergency and crisis response.”

More money was needed to make the CAMHS safe for patients after an extra £800,000 had to be found to pay for more staff. Planned appointments were being cancelled to meet demand for a 24-hour service for kids with urgent problems.

The report said: “Out of hours referrals have a significant impact on planned work, resulting in cancellation of appointments to enable emergency response.

“Cancellation is disruptive to young people and their families, and also to staff who may have been up in the night in A&E departments when on call.”

Staff sickness in the CAMHS service was almost twice as high as the trust average - 8.6 per cent compared to 4.6 per cent trust-wide.

The report said: “The need to respond both to planned and emergency work with a limited workforce is placing a significant burden on staff, which longer term is not sustainable and is undoubtedly a major contributory factor to the high sickness levels still being experienced.”

A trust risk register report, dated April 28, also classed the potential harm to children as a “major” risk. It warns of: “Children potentially at serious risk due to lack of robust systems and processes to ensure safe clinical delivery.”

Bosses at South West Yorkshire said a plan was in place to improve the service.

A spokeswoman said: “We acknowledge that there are currently long waiting times due to the demand on the service, and recognise that this is difficult for families.

“We try to manage waiting lists as effectively as possible within the resources available and to explain the position to families.”

North Kirklees and Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Groups, the two NHS organisation which commission the CAMHS service, said in a statement: “We are unhappy that waiting times for CAMHS in Kirklees are currently longer than we would expect.

“Demand for these services has increased across the country and consequently access to CAMHS is an issue nationally.”