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NHS mental health targets deemed not ambitious enough to reach children in need

By Léa Legraien
14 January 2019

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NHS England services are failing children with mental health problems, a Government committee has warned.

In a report published on Friday, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that NHS-funded services for children and young people with a mental health condition ‘will not reach most of those who need help.’

In its five year forward view for mental health, published in 2016, NHS England promised that at least 70,000 more children and young people will have access to mental health treatment every year by 2020/21.

Patients ‘failed’ by the NHS

The PAC report said that NHS targets to increase access to services for children and young people diagnosed with a mental health issue – from 25% in 2016/17 to 35% by 2020/21 – will still leave two-thirds unable to get treatment.

NHS England estimates that only three in 10 (30.5%) children and young people with a mental health condition were able to access treatment in 2017/18.

PAC chair Meg Hillier said: ‘Children and young people with mental health conditions are being failed by the NHS.

‘Provision is far below required levels and many people who do get help face long waits for treatment.

‘The NHS must accelerate efforts to ensure it has the right staff with the right skills in the right places. But there is a broader role for Government in better supporting children and young people.’

Lack of accountability

In 2015, the Government pledged an extra £1.4bn of funding over five years to transform children’s mental health services.

However, the PAC report said that ‘a lack of reliable financial data up to 2016/17 means that NHS England cannot be sure that CCGs spent all the additional funding provided for children and young people’s mental health services as intended, prior to 2017/18’.

The report said: ‘From 2018/19, NHS England expects CCGs to spend additional funding provided for children and young people’s mental health services on those services; and will monitor this as part of its annual planning process.

‘Despite the uncertainty over expenditure prior to 2017–18, NHS England gave us its commitment that it would ensure that all the £1.4bn committed to children and young people’s services will be spent as intended by 2020–21.’

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