THERE is a “long way to go” before the aspirations of the NHS Long Terms Plan are met in relation to the mental health of young people, the Church’s lead bishop on health, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, said last week.
Speaking in a House of Lords debate on the mental health of children and young people, Bishop Newcome said: “We have heard some of the alarming statistics on children and young people with mental-health needs, and we know that current NHS services are unable to meet this disturbing increase. . .
“I would like to use the brief time at my disposal to focus on some of the most vulnerable young people in our society: those with moderate to severe learning difficulties, whose mental-health needs can be either missed or inappropriately treated in hospitals. I believe that they and many other people with mental-health needs would benefit hugely from the provision of good services in the community rather than in hospitals or other institutions.”
He told peers that “the number of children with learning disabilities admitted to mental-health hospitals has gone up rather than down,” and this has continued, despite the targets of the NHS plan.
“Between March 2015 and May 2018, the number of children under 18 in in-patient mental-health units doubled, from 110 to 250. There were another 465 young people aged between 18 and 24 in in-patient units last year. The average length of stay has remained the same, at 5.4 years, since 2013,” Bishop Newcome said.
He concluded: “Given the urgency of the current situation, I would be most grateful if the Minister would comment on the proposed time frame for closing beds in institutions, and making sure that effective mental-health support for children and young people is available in all our communities.”
In response, on behalf of the Government, Baroness Manzoor said: “I agree that we need to increase community services, particularly for those with learning disabilities. That is why the long-term plan’s significant investment in children’s mental-health services is so crucial. As I said, by 2024 an additional 345,000 children will receive this support.”