LEGAL EAGLE: Children's mental health crisis

A recent review of mental health services conducted by children's commissioner Anne Longfield has revealed that almost 70000 children referred to mental health services were turned away in the last 12 months.

Many of these children were suffering severe mental health difficulties including anorexia nervosa, and self-harming behaviour. She describes the current trend as “playing Russian roulette with children’s health”

As has been mentioned in previous articles the chronic lack of funding to mental health services has left the NHS bordering on being overwhelmed.

This lack of funding has led not only to those who need treatment, children and adults alike, being unable to access it, but to the reduction of services and closure of wards and Hospitals which were previously dedicated to treating some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

So, what has the Government done to try and improve what appears to be an ever worsening situation?

An Independent Mental Health Task Force was commissioned to carry out a full assessment of NHS Mental Health Services. In a report published this year, the following recommendation were made:

l an end to the practice of sending people out of their local area for acute inpatient care

l providing mental health care to 70,000 more children and young people

l supporting 30,000 more new and expectant mothers through maternal mental health services

l new funding to ensure all acute hospitals have mental health services in emergency departments for people of all ages

l increasing access to talking therapies to reach 25% of those who need this support

l a commitment to reducing suicides by 10%

l increased focus on research

These targets are part of a five year plan, as part of which the Government have pledged one billion pounds of funding to Mental Health Services with a separate £1.25 billion pledged to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

There is concern however that the NHS has already reached crisis point and that the governments “five year plan” has come about too late to stem the tide. It is clear that Mental Health Services are heading for one of the most challenging periods in the existence of our NHS with further concerns expressed about the impact on services and the wider NHS should Britain choose to leave the European Union.

It is estimated that a decision to leave the EU would have drastic and far reaching effects on those suffering with mental health problems. At present their ability to seek and obtain help is enabled through an NHS which many believe, will only become more stretched in the coming years.

l Paul Harbison is a Solicitor in the firm’s specialist mental health team which is the largest dedicated mental health team in the North East.

All the firm’s solicitors are accredited as specialists in mental health law by the Law Society and have a wealth of experience advising and representing both adults and children who are being treated under the Mental Health Act either in hospital or in the community.

Contact David Gray Solicitors LLP via their website or call 0191 232 9547.