William Eichler 09 December 2021

Demand for mental health treatment pushing NHS to ‘breaking point’

Demand for mental health treatment pushing NHS to ‘breaking point’ image

MPs have called for urgent action to prevent mental health services slipping backwards as a result of the pandemic and the scale of unmet need prior to COVID-19.

A new report from the Health and Social Care Committee has found that more than half of young people with a diagnosable condition pre-pandemic do not receive the mental health support they need.

Drawing on 2020 data from NHS Digital, the report also found that one in six young people had a diagnosable mental health disorder, up from one in nine three years earlier.

New Mental Health Support Teams in schools offered a valuable opportunity to identify those beginning to experience problems with their mental health, the committee noted.

However, it warned that there was no funding to roll them out nationally in the recent Spending Review settlement.

The report also found that too many children and young people were placed in inpatient units far from home, without adequate understanding of their rights, and subject to restrictive interventions.

‘Partly because of the pandemic, we are seeing demand for mental health treatment pushing NHS services to breaking point,’ said health and social care committee chair Jeremy Hunt.

‘Whilst we recognise that capacity to provide such services is increasing, we are not convinced it is happening at a fast enough rate.

‘There is a growing risk that elective and emergency care pressures will mean mental health services once again become the poor relation.

‘Our report uncovers good progress in schools provision but a continuing failure to find community care for too many young people who end up in inappropriate secure provision that makes their illness even worse.’

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'Everyone should have access to safe, appropriate mental health care and we are transforming NHS services backed by an extra £2.3bn per year by 2023/24 to allow hundreds of thousands more children to access support.

'We recognise the impact the pandemic has had on everyone, especially children and young people who have faced disruption to their education, and have committed an additional £500m this year to support those most affected, including £79m to expand children’s mental health services.

'Mental health services are there for those who need them, so if you need support or are concerned about someone else, please reach out for help.'

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