This is an increase from 2012-13 when 21% of young people were turned away from specialist services.

The report found considerable variation between providers with South of England rejecting the highest proportion of referalls at 34% compared with London rejecting the least at 19%.

The five providers with the highest proportion of unaccepted referrals were: Norfolk and Suffolk (64.1 per cent); Hertfordshire Partnership (63.5 per cent); Nottinghamshire Healthcare (61 per cent); Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (58.3 per cent); and South Staffordshire and Shropshire (58.7 per cent).

The five providers with the lowest proportion of unaccepted referrals were: Birmingham Children’s Hospital (0.0 per cent); Derbyshire Healthcare (0.1 per cent); Tavistock and Portman (1.7 per cent); Shropshire Community Health (2.0 per cent); and Bradford District Care (3.0 per cent).

The main reason for the rejection of referrals was that the young people did not meet the eligibility criteria for specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS); with the authors conceding that ‘Little progress has been made in reducing the high proportion of young people who are not accepted into specialist services despite having been referred by a concerned GP or teacher’.

Hadyn Williams, Chief Executive Officer at BACP, said: “It’s clear from this new data from EPI that CAMHS services are oversubscribed and under severe pressure. 

“CAMHS is, of course, part of the solution for children and young people in severe distress. However, the government must think about the ‘right support’, for all levels of mental health need, whether that be CAMHS, online interventions, or school-based counselling. 

“School-based counselling works well as a parallel support alongside CAMHS and can reduce referrals to these specialist and costly services. It is cost effective too; five sessions of school-based counselling can be provided for the cost of one CAHMS session.

 “We remain concerned that without the development of a national school based counselling strategy with a commitment for a trained counsellor in every secondary school England’s children will continue to remain behind children and young people in Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of emotional support.

“We believe that all children and young people of school age across the UK should have equal access to professional, qualified counselling services in their schools and will continue to campaign to ensure that this becomes a reality.”