normanlambYouth mental health services in England are “stuck in the dark ages” and “not fit for purpose”, Health Minister Norman Lamb has said.

Speaking during a visit to North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (NEP) in-patient CAMHS centre in Colchester, the Care and Support Minister said he was “determined to modernise the provision of psychiatric help for children”.

He will now launch a taskforce to look at the way children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are organised and delivered.

View our infographic outlining the cuts to CAMHS services across the UK at:  

Lamb said: “I don't think that children’s mental health services, the way they're organised, the way they're commissioned, are fit for purpose.

“I'm determined that we modernise services for children who have mental health problems. In many respects, the way services are organised is stuck in the dark ages and it needs to be brought into the modern age. Crucially, I want young people to be involved.”

Strains on the system nationally
The proposed taskforce will look at how to improve the organisation and commissioning of children's mental health services, how to make better use of voluntary and charitable groups and how to make it easier for young people to access help online. The group will publish its findings next spring.

The St Aubyn Centre which the Minister was visiting has 10 intensive care beds, 15 general psychiatric beds and a suite to admit young people with mental health illnesses have been detained by police.

The facility, built 2 years ago at a cost of £9m, is “exactly the sort of facility the NHS should be providing” according to the Minister.

However, it also illustrates the strains on the system nationally as 2 of the patients in the centre have come from Cornwall. It has also admitted patients from Newcastle and Somerset in recent weeks.

To watch Mental Health Today editor Dan Parton speak exclusively to Health Minister Norman Lamb about parity of esteem go to:  

Speaking after discussions with the Minister, Nigel Hughes, consultant adolescent psychiatrist at the centre said: “We were delighted to welcome the Minister to our centre and to hear what he had to say. We share his concerns about the way services for these vulnerable young people are currently organised and commissioned.

“There is constant pressure at a national level on bed spaces in our in-patient wards; we recently have had a young person from the West Country with us as there was no other available space nearer their home, and also recently discharged a young person back to their home in Newcastle. Different levels of services are commissioned by different organisations which can cause problems and there is a constant pressure on budgets at a time when we are seeing more young people being referred into the service.

“We are very pleased the Minister has said they will involve young people in this review. We had young people involved in the development of the design of this centre and we benefitted greatly from their views. We need to listen to them.”