Number of young people contacting mental health services increased by more than 40% in two years

The frustrations of young people and their families trying to access the city’s child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) were exposed in a report by Healthwatch York.

It showed that they face delays, lost documents and other problems when trying to get help.

But the ‘snapshot’ report said more funding was needed to tackle the key issue of wait times.

Number of young people contacting mental health services increased by more than 40% in two years

According to NHS data, at the end of May 2020 there were 1,925 children and young people in contact with CAMHS – with this figure rising to 2,765 at the end of June 2022.

A review of referral systems by York City Council in May found young people feel the wait time for CAMHS is too long and has a further negative impact on their mental health.

A woman who contacted Healthwatch, which works with teenagers and young adults, said mental health services “hardly exist in York”.

One teacher said CAMHS regularly loses paperwork, while another said it was difficult to access SEND (special educational needs and disability) support in public schools.

“When I think of the situations these kids are in, I could just cry…regular schools can’t handle complex needs,” the teacher said.

One parent said they had “lost hope” of their children revealing support for their anxiety, panic attacks and eating disorders.

“The whole experience has been extremely frustrating and upsetting for my child,” they added.

Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust provide CAMHS, but other council and school support is available.

The report says the system needed better support for teachers, improved administrative processes and better communication from CAMHS at an early stage.

The report adds, “Without additional investment in services, it will be extremely difficult to reduce wait times for assessment and diagnosis.

“However, what we can do is try to reduce some of the pain and anxiety that comes with waiting.

“Better communication and improved parent and teacher confidence in administrative processes could make the path to diagnosis less confrontational.”

Melanie Woodcock, chief executive of North Yorkshire, York and Selby CAMHS and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Trust learning disabilities services, said: ‘Children’s mental health services across the country have come under a lot of pressure because of the pandemic and there are times we can’t see people as fast as we would like.

“However, we are here, with partners from primary care, local authorities and the voluntary sector, to provide a range of Child and Young People’s Mental Health (CAMHS) services and support children and young people who need our assistance.”

Ms Woodcock said this included an academic support service, access to specialist multi-disciplinary CAMHS teams and a 24/7 helpline for children and young people in mental health crisis.

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