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More needs to be done for children’s mental health says NAO

Will report make any difference?


Although the government has made a start in bringing children’s and young people’s mental health services in line with physical health services there is still a long way to go to ensure equal access of care, says a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).


According to the NAO the most recent survey of children’s mental health needs in 2004 found 10% of five to 16 year olds had a mental health condition and around 25% of those who needed support were able to access the relevant mental health services.


The government wants to increase this to 35%, about an extra 70,000 children per year, between 2015/16 to 2020/21, reflecting what it believes is possible with current funding and staffing constraints.


However, the NHS cannot track progress with this target reliably because of inefficient data collection, said the NAO, although improvements with this are being made.


NHS England cannot be sure all of the additional £1.4bn committed to young people’s and children’s mental health services for 2016/17 to 2020/21 is being spent as intended by clinical commissioning groups, said the report.


The number of young people needing support is likely to be higher than previously estimated and could mean an extra 186,000 a year needing treatment to reach the improvement of 35% by 2020.


Even if the government’s modest targets were met, 65% of young people who needed support with mental health would not get it, said the report.


Meaningful change is far away, said NAO head Amyas Morse, and good intentions must be matched by planning, resources and co-ordination.


Further information

Guardian: Child mental health services will not meet demand, NAO warns

National Audit Office: Improving children and young people’s mental health services