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NHS boss sorry for ‘unacceptable’ child mental health waiting times

Hampshire's child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) is missing waiting time targets (Photo: stock image)
Hampshire's child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) is missing waiting time targets (Photo: stock image)

WAITING times for children’s mental health care in Hampshire have grown to “unacceptable” lengths, an NHS report has admitted.

Health bosses issued an apology to families as targets are being missed by the county’s child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in the face of rising numbers of cases.

In the West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which covers the New Forest, Winchester and Eastleigh, only 30% of youngsters were seen within the four-week target waiting time for assessment.

And just over 40% went on to receive treatment within the 18-week target following assessment.

West Hampshire CCG works with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Groups which has a contract with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to provide CAMHS, which it has done since 2011.

The Hampshire CAMHS situation was laid bare in an update requested from the partnership by members of the county council’s children and young people select committee, which met on Wednesday.

The document said a five-year plan had been created in response to “significant increases” in demand, which had set out “ambitious targets”.

Despite the lengthy waits, the report showed that a government target for 34% of diagnosed children accessing treatment was surpassed with 51% in West Hampshire CCG, compared to 46% across the county.

The document added: “Nonetheless, this has not gone far enough and we are faced with significant and unacceptable waiting times for children and young people.

“Given the challenges of CAMHS waiting times, doing nothing is not an option for us. Therefore the CCG has worked with key stakeholders to develop a phased investment plan.”

Nearly £1m has been made available during 2019/20, plus £670,000 to support autism assessments, it said. Additional investment of £800,000 has been agreed for 2020/21.

In the New Forest in September there were 24 children on the Hampshire CAMHS waiting list for assessment and 26 for treatment.

Dr Andy Whitfield, clinical director for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of CCGs, said: “We apologise to families who have had to wait to access child and adolescent mental health services across Hampshire.

“We know that this causes additional concern at what is already a difficult time for families and we are committed to doing all we can to reduce waiting times.

“We have identified additional funding in this financial year and next, and we continue to work closely with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the voluntary sector and other partners.”

A spokesperson for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust added: “We continue to work with our commissioners to address access and treatment waiting times, and we are doing everything we can to support families while they wait for treatment to begin.”

Select committee member Cllr Malcolm Wade said after the meeting: “We had the presentation last year and we have had it again this year and it’s not getting any better – they’re not delivering.

“I do not doubt the quality of care but this delay is unacceptable. They do not have the funding to get the resources to meet the demand.”

Councillors were also give an update on children in care with HCC, which revealed numbers had gone up from about 1,300 in August 2014 to more than 1,600 in August this year. The £151m budget for children's social care in 2019/20 was due to be overspent by £5m.

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