- Data shows a 53 per cent rise in child referrals to mental health services
Emergency mental health referrals for children have risen by more than half in three years, official figures show.
Doctors warn demand for care is now so high that many children cannot access help until they reach ‘crisis point’.
Data analysed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows a 53 per cent rise in referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) crisis teams in England.
There were 32,521 referrals in 2022/23, up from 21,242 in 2019/20.
The college warned that children could develop long-term conditions, affecting their education, social development and health, without speedy treatment.
Data analysed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows a 53 per cent rise in referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services crisis teams in England (Stock image)
Dr Elaine Lockhart,isn the chairman of the college’s child and adolescent faculty
Dr Elaine Lockhart, chairman of the college’s child and adolescent faculty, said: ‘It’s unacceptable that so many children and young people are reaching crisis point before they are able to access care. We cannot allow this to become the new norm.
‘Severe mental illness is not just an adult problem. The need for specialist mental health services for children and young people is growing all the time.’
The college said around half of mental health conditions arise before the age of 14, and three-quarters before the age of 24.
But data shows under-18s who are waiting for a follow-up after a GP referral for mental health problems have already waited on average five months and, in the worst case, almost two years.
The college said many of these under-18s have suffered worsening mental health while on NHS waiting lists for treatment.
The RCP said last year’s Government announcement of an extra £5million to improve access to existing early support hubs was welcome but it predicts an extra £125million to £205million is needed to establish hubs in every local authority, with running costs of at least £114million a year.
Data shows under-18s who are waiting for a follow-up after a GP referral for mental health problems have already waited on average five months and, in the worst case, almost two years (Stock image)
An NHS England spokesman said: ‘The latest figures show the NHS is now treating more young people than ever before, and the Health Service is expanding mental health services as quickly as possible within the current five-year funding arrangements to help meet increasing demand, with 44 per cent more children and young people accessing support since 2019/20.
‘Early support for children and young people with mental health issues is a priority for the NHS.’