Mental Health of Children and Young Adults - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:46 pm on 16th May 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 1:46 pm, 16th May 2019

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for introducing this debate and giving us the opportunity to discuss such an important issue during Mental Health Awareness Week. She spoke movingly and importantly. We have had an extraordinary debate today, with many personal reflections; it is an incredibly valuable contribution to this week. I also thank those who have asked the huge range of questions which I am now tasked with trying to respond to in less than 20 minutes. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I do not cover each one; I will write on those points I am not able to cover today.

The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, is absolutely right when she says that, unfortunately, it remains true that many young people who seek help for their mental health find it difficult to access the right support at the right time. This is wrong, and we need to work harder and faster to get it right.

I would like to start by responding to a point about data, made by the noble Lord, Lord Storey. We have recently improved the available data in two key areas, with a significant prevalence survey on mental health in young people that was done in 2018 with 9,117 children and young people aged between 2 and 19. It showed that the prevalence of mental health diagnosis has increased by 1.1% since the previous survey, and that 25.2% of young people with a diagnosable disorder report having been in contact with NHS mental health specialist services in the last year. This is important, because the previous prevalence survey was 10 years old, and during that period social media has intervened, which we expected to have had a significant effect. The CMO then did a review which created evidence-based guidelines on screen time—an important intervention. In addition, we have brought in the dashboard to track data at a local level and the implementation of various standards which we have brought in.

This is a huge improvement on the level of data and tracking that we have on mental health within the community and the performance of our mental health trusts compared to the last time I was in the post. Therefore, I would like to reassure the noble Lord on the point about data. It is not where we would like it to be, but it is still a significant step forward. I wanted to start on that, because you cannot talk about policy and where we are if you do not have the data to know about it. That is why I want to talk about where we have come to before I talk about where we need to go.

We are on track to meet the commitment to improving access that we made in the five-year forward view, and to have 70,000 more children and young people accessing treatment each year by 2020-21 compared to the 2014-15 baseline. We have introduced the first-ever access and waiting time standards for mental health services. For young people experiencing their first episode of psychosis, we have a target for early intervention to ensure that treatment begins within two weeks for more than 50%. Nationally, the NHS is exceeding this: over 75% of patients started treatment within two weeks in March 2019. We have also set a target for 95% of children and young people with eating disorders—which have been on the increase—to access treatment, with a one-week referral for urgent cases and four weeks for routine cases by next year. Nationally, we are on track to meet this, with the most recent data showing that over 82% of patients started routine treatment within four weeks. We need to pay tribute to those who work incredibly hard within the mental health system and are making some very difficult changes to achieve this, coming from what was a very low base. It is important to pay tribute to them for their achievements.

I would like to move on to some questions put to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, about crisis care, before moving on to those from the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, about out-of-area placements and the private sector. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, is absolutely right that we need to improve access to crisis care for those young people who need it most. A commitment has been made that we will invest £400 million in 24/7 crisis resolution home treatment teams in every local area by next year, and £249 million in mental health teams in A&E departments to improve the system. The long-term plan makes a commitment to ensure timely, universal mental health crisis care for everyone, including young people, and to drive out the variability which we recognise exists for them.

We also recognise the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, about out-of-area placements. We have made a commitment that inappropriate out-of-area placements must come to an end. Where there are specialist cases, a young person will need to travel, but we want in-patient stays to be as close to home as possible and to avoid inappropriate stays. For that reason, we have introduced the accelerated bed scheme, which has already created 117 new beds, with 69 new beds on the way. This is being done to reduce variability of access to in-patient care, but we also want to reduce that care by bringing in more prevention and earlier access to lower-level care, such as that pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Layard. I shall return to the point that he made.

We are very concerned about the recent reports of failings within mental health care, which the noble Baroness raised. She is absolutely right that all providers of NHS services, whether NHS or private, must abide by the same high standards. Where this is not the case, we are ensuring that the NHS looks into the circumstances and considers what action should be taken. Private providers play an important role in the provision of children’s mental health services, but these must be safe and of high quality. We have tough regulators to ensure that that happens.

I will move on now to the points made on early intervention by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who is not in place.