Parents have raised concerns about long waits to access Sheffield’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
A report by Sheffield City Council and NHS Sheffield states that there has been an increase both in numbers of people waiting and in waiting times for generic community CAMHS. In February 2012, over 260 youngsters had been waiting for more than 18 weeks, with some facing waits of up 44 weeks.
This appears to be the consequence of a re-organisation of the service and re-prioritisation of funding in a challenging financial climate. Whilst overall investment in CAMHS increased by £1.3m (15%) between 2010/11 and 2011/12, most of this money went to a new inpatient facility for those with the most serious problems – the Becton Centre. At the same time, funding for community mental health services (tiers 2 and 3) was cut by £700,000. Reasons cited include in-year cuts to a grant paid to local authorities by central government, the end of a fixed-term funding stream, and NHS efficiencies.
A number of steps have been taken to bring down waiting times. These include offering families on the waiting list advice or brief interventions, and re-prioritising any cases which have become more severe. From April 2012, MAST (Multi-Agency Support Team) workers will receive training to provide early intervention and support for children and young people with less complex mental health needs.
On 29 February 2012, the government announced an additional investment of £22m over 3 years to expand child mental health services. Some of the money will be spent on extra training for NHS staff and those who work with children and young people to provide earlier, focused intervention.