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Number of referrals for youth mental health services reaches record high

Image of teenagers sat in a line on the beach
Amir Hosseini | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Newly released figures show that the number of young people receiving referrals to mental health services has reached a record high.

The NHS collected and provided the data to the charity YoungMinds for review, which revealed that 982 under-18s received a referral to crisis care teams across May 2022.

The number is a 37% increase on the previous month, and the highest since before the pandemic began in 2019.

Similarly, the number of open referrals to mental health services for children and young people has reached 457,387 for just the month of May.

This is the highest ever number received in a single month and far surpassing the previous record reached in March 2022.

Worryingly, these findings have come not long after YoungMinds published data suggesting that 26% of young people reported attempting suicide due to the wait for mental health support.

“These numbers paint a shocking picture of the situation young people in this country face when it comes to their mental health," said head of external affairs at YoungMinds, Olly Parker.

“For years, politicians have promised that they will get a grip of the crisis in young people’s mental health, including a recent commitment to a ten-year plan.

“But the reality is that month after month we are seeing devastating new records of young people struggling to get treatment and support for their mental health, and month after month we are left waiting for the government to take action and end this intensifying crisis.

“We urgently need to see a reversal in climbing waiting lists and record referrals figures. The government must urgently equip the NHS to deal with the immediate pressures services face.

“But they must also make sure they keep their promise in delivering a mental health plan that has a real focus on young people and sets clear goals, across the whole of government, for addressing this crisis.”

Dearth in specialist beds causing long waiting times for crisis patients

A lack of specialist mental health crisis beds is causing 'dire issues for distressed patients,' according to a report from Birmingham Heartland Hospital.

There are multiple reports being made by A&E chiefs at the Birmingham hospital of many distressed patients having to wait several days for a crisis bed due to a chronic shortage.

One patient diagnosed with psychosis had to be cared for on an emergency trolley bed by emergency staff for seven days until an appropriate bed became available for them.

Another had to wait for three days.

This trend of chronic shortages of mental health beds is being observed across the midlands and the nation – an inquiry from Birmingham Live conducted earlier in the year found many patients being moved 200 miles away to be able to access treatment due to local beds being unavailable.

“Mental health bed occupancy is consistently at 95% right now. That’s 10% above safe levels," said the head of Health, Policy and Campaigns at Mind.

"What we are seeing is the cumulative result of years of underfunding coming up against an overwhelming need for mental health support, particularly off the back of the pandemic.

"When we feel unwell, we deserve timely support in a safe environment. Sadly, all too often we hear that people are not able to get this kind of help. Recent estimates suggest there are 1.6 million people waiting for mental health treatment and another eight million who could benefit from mental health services but aren’t deemed unwell enough to be eligible to access them.”

"It is vital that the UK Government act by giving mental health services the proper funding and support they need. The extra £10 million earmarked for mental health services, while a welcome investment, is not nearly enough to address the fundamental issues our mental health services face – years of underfunding, a crumbling estate and widespread staffing issues. We need to see long term, systematic reform – not yearly sticking plasters – to address the underlying issues our mental health services face.”

Community wealth programme improves mental health

A new report has revealed that Preston City Council has successfully improved the area's mental health through changes to its procurement policy.

The city council started The Community Wealth Building programme in 2013, which aimed to improve the city’s local organisations' ability to modify “their procurement policies to support the development of local supply chains, improve employment conditions and the socially-productive use of wealth and assets.”

This included housing providers, universities and the city council itself.

Examples of these changes included purchasing more from local small and medium-sized businesses and suppliers, alongside adding ‘social value requirements,’ such as hiring more local people for apprenticeships.

The researchers compared data collected from similar towns and calculated that Preston saw an 11% improvement in mental health when compared with the control group which could be attributed to the procurement programme.

It was also found that median wages increased by 11% and life satisfaction improved by 9% compared with typical trends, thanks to the successful policy.

The researchers also suggest that these results show that 2400 fewer people experienced common mental health problems.

“We found that in Preston after 2015, following the introduction of their Community Wealth Building programme, mental health and wellbeing improved relative to the expected trends estimated from other similar areas," said the report.

“This occurred alongside improvements in wages and employment that were also greater in Preston.

“The findings are consistent with Preston’s Community Wealth Building programme having led to economic improvements that have translated into improvements in mental health and wellbeing.”

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