A £40 million funding package has been announced for NHS mental health services for young people to help with increasing demands for eating disorder treatment.
The extra investment aims to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people across the country, among whom urgent and routine referrals for eating disorder services have reportedly doubled over the past year.
The money, £30 million of which is revenue and £10 million of which is capital, will be spread across various areas, including improving prevention services, providing staff training for non-mental health specialists, and ensuring extra beds in units that care for children with complex needs.
A further £1.5 million will be made available for ensuring additional facilities for children under the age of 13.
Some of the money will also be used to establish an intensive community support service made up of 96 associate practitioner psychologists.
Their role will be to aid in preventing hospital admissions and accelerating earlier discharge to allow children to receive care in their own homes.
Specialist feeding training will also be funded to ensure this type of care can be given to young people in a hospital setting, while day services and alternatives to admissions will also be developed.
"This pandemic has hit our young people hard and while services have remained open throughout, we have seen an increase in the numbers of children and young people seeking help from the NHS for their mental health," said Claire Murdoch, national mental health director for NHS England.
“This additional funding is in recognition of the rising demand and our continued commitment to provide the best care as early as possible and to do as much to prevent children and young people needing hospital treatment as we do to ensure that when they are in hospital they receive the right treatment before being supported back at home.”
The £40 million investment is in addition to a £79 million funding package announced in March for youth mental health services.
The primary aim of that package is to improve psychological support in schools and colleges, including increasing the number of schools with a mental health support team from 59 to 400 by April 2023.
An estimated 3 million children will benefit from the investment, providing support for around 35% of young people across the country.
Specific improvements to NHS children and young people's mental health services are as follows:
Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System will fund 12 General Adolescent Unit and six Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit beds
Intensive outreach services will be boosted in the East Midlands
12 additional beds will be funded in the South West
22 additional beds will be supported in West Yorkshire
Three additional beds will be funded at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Investment will be made in the day service and alternative treatments provided in Kent and Sussex.
Read the full announcement from NHS England here.
Written by Marco Ricci
Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health