young mental healthIncreasing numbers of children and young people are being denied mental health treatment after it has been recommended by a GP, according to new research.

GP magazine Pulse used Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to get data from 15 mental health trusts and found that 60% of referrals made by GPs to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) results in the child receiving no treatment. In addition, a third do not receive an assessment of their needs.

Pulse’s figures seem to indicate a worsening picture of access CAMHS: in 2013, 44% of referrals by GPs progressed to treatment, but by 2015 that figure had fallen to 39%.

More specifically, the FoI requests found that in some areas the number of referrals progressing to treatment have fallen significantly in recent years. For instance, in Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, CAMHS referrals had fallen to 20% from 46% in 2013. Meanwhile, in Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, only 26% of cases progressed to treatment, down from 42%. 

GPs that spoke to Pulse also reported that children and young people had to have self-harmed or attempted suicide before they were given access to treatment. When GPs have requested specialist input, many children and young people were being diverted to charities or school counsellors.

These figures support other recent research that indicate a worsening picture of access to services. In May, information collected by the Children’s Commissioner for England found that 28% of children who were referred for specialist mental health treatment in 2015 did not receive a service, including some with life-threatening conditions.

The government has previously promised that children’s mental health services will get a funding boost of £1.25 billion over the course of this parliament to help develop services.