A report has revealed that young people in the midst of a mental health crisis need to attempt suicide several times before they can get a bed in an inpatient unit in England.
The criteria for admission to beds in CAMH units have become so stringent that even extremely vulnerable people under the age of 18 who are clearly at risk to themselves cannot receive them.
This practice – caused by the NHS’ lack of mental health beds – leaves young people at risk of further harm, disoriented, exhausted and worried for their parents, and the police and ambulance services may have to step in.
The high thresholds for admission to CAMHS are detailed in a report on NHS mental health care for under 18s in England based on interviews with patients, their parents and the specialist staff caring for them.
The report says the young man must have “attempted suicide several times in order for inpatient support to be provided.” It was commissioned by Look Ahead Care, a charity providing mental health services in 40 boroughs in England, and is being launched on Wednesday in the House of Lords.
“For many mental health professionals, this threshold level was deeply frustrating,” the report says. “For parents and users of the service, this triggered strong emotional responses: They reported feeling angry and abandoned.”
The father of one of the children quoted in the report said, “It was very clear from what the doctor wrote that he had suicidal intentions and was planning it. I felt that at the time Camhs was only interested if he tried, which we obviously didn’t want him to do.”
Kamesh’s nurse quoted him as saying, “The parents were like, ‘What do you mean?’ What do you mean I take her home? It was very difficult for them, which I get because the parents were coming to us crying for help.”
The report, funded by the Wates Family Enterprise Trust, also highlights how:
People under 18 seek help in A&E for serious mental health problems because mental health crisis services are inadequate, even though emergency departments are not set up to deal with this.
Private operators now provide most mental health inpatient care for children and young people deemed well enough to need a bed, but this costs up to £4,200 a week – far more than the NHS services.
Some people under the age of 18 who have overdosed or self-harmed end up being cared for on children’s wards in acute hospitals while they wait to undergo a mental health assessment, then wait “days or weeks” for a bed on a Camhs unit.
Ollie Parker, Head of External Affairs at the charity Young Minds, said: “It is shameful that children and young people reach a crisis point before they have access to any support for their mental health. We know from our research that thousands have waited so long for mental health support or treatment that they have attempted suicide. .
“Those who end up in A&E are often there because they don’t know where to go. But A&E can be a busy, stressful environment, and it’s usually not the best place to get the right help.”
a survey Of the 13,887 young people last year found, more than one in four attempted suicide because they had to wait to receive mental health help.
The Liberal Democrats’ health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper said: “The results of this research are devastating and should serve as a wake-up call to the government about the mental health of young people.
“The harrowing interviews in this report reveal how desperate young people and their families are for treatment, and that there is nowhere to turn unless they have reached a crisis point, sometimes multiple times.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “It is not true that private providers provide most hospital mental health care for young people, in fact the latest data shows that over 701,000 children and young people were supported by NHS mental health services in the year to October 2022.
“The NHS has expanded mental health teams in schools to cover 2.4 million pupils along with rolling out 24/7 crisis lines to support those in crisis without having to go to hospital, so anyone who thinks they may need care should be informed. proceed as soon as possible.”