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28/07/2021

Hundreds of local children waiting months for mental health treatment

New report shows increasing numbers of children with ‘eating disorders and complex conditions’ are amongst recent referrals

SURVEY: 54% of parents believe that Covid-19 restrictions have impacted their child's mental health

More local children are waiting lengthy periods for mental health treatment compared to their counterparts living in other parts of Northern Ireland, the Derry News has learned.

In Derry and the wider Trust area, 338 young people are waiting to access Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by the end of May, according to a Western Trust performance report.

Of those, 175 have been waiting more than nine weeks.

At least one child has been waiting for around 10 months to access CAMHS.

The report, presented at July’s Board meeting, also outlines the regional performance for the month of April.

At the end of April, the Western Trust had the highest figure of 141 young people waiting more than nine weeks.

By comparison there were 132 in the Northern Trust, 117 in the Belfast Trust and 30 in the Southern Trust.  No figure is available for the South Eastern Trust.

The Western Trust area has seen a ‘continued increase in complex cases and eating disorders’.

During May, 41 per cent of the total referrals received were ‘emergency and urgent’ priority referrals.

The Trust report explains that as priority referrals need to be seen within specific timescales, this is having an impact on routine access to the service.

The report states: “At the end of May 2021, the total number waiting for a New CAMHS outpatient appointment increased by 12 per cent in comparison to the previous month, with 175 children waiting more than 9 weeks.

“The service continues to work intensively with young people requiring inpatient assessment and treatment.

“In some instances young people are seen 3-4 times per week within the community and/or inpatient wards.

“The lack of available beds within the Regional Children & Young People Inpatient Unit (Beechcroft), remains a challenge for this service.”

It adds: “In addition, the service continues to experience very significant staffing challenges due to vacant posts and sickness leave.

“Recruitment to vacant Mental Health Practitioner posts is progressing and it is anticipated that staff should be in post by September 2021.

“The service has secured in year funding from HSCB to support eating disorder cases and to procure a project which will focus on sport/activity at weekends for children and young people known to the service.

“Additional recurrent funding from HSCB to support Eating Disorder and a Transition worker has also been approved.”

ADULT SERVICES

The Western Trust’s adult mental health service is longer with 679 people waiting.

However, the number waiting more than nine weeks, 93, is at a much lower level than the CAMHS service

By comparison, the Southern Trust had 920 adults waiting more than nine weeks at the end of April and the Belfast Trust had 206 individuals.

In respect of adult mental health, the author of the report said: “Access to this service area has continued to improve during May with 93 people waiting more than 9 weeks, an 11 per cent improvement compared to the previous month.

“The total number waiting has remained static at the end of May reflecting a sustained level of new demand from January 2021 to April 2021.

“Of the total number of referrals received during May, 37 per cent of these were emergency and urgent referrals.

“New referrals received during May are now at 81 per cent of the level in May 2019.

“During May, the Trust exceeded the New Outpatients rebuild plan delivering 472 against a predicted 431 and achieved 99 per cent of the Review Outpatients plan delivering a total of 4,395 appointments against a predicted 4,433.

“The Trust is broadly in line with pre-pandemic activity levels within Adult Mental Health services with 93 per cent activity delivered in comparison to the level of activity that was delivered during May 2019.”

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