A survey of psychiatrists has suggested that NHS services are failing the soaring numbers of children who have had a breakdown, self-harmed or attempted to commit suicide.
72% of consultant psychiatrists who specialise in treating children and adolescents say that NHS care for under-18s experiencing a crisis in their mental health is either inadequate (58%) or very inadequate (14%).
And only 9% of those who responded concluded that these services are currently good.
253 of the UK’s 750 consultant psychiatrists working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) took part in the survey.
And the the results paint a worrying picture of how NHS services are falling behind the requirements of children and young people with serious psychological and psychiatric conditions.
Peter Hindley, the chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry, which undertook the research, suggested that the findings of the survey should be of serious concern.
“These are worrying findings. They are from very experienced clinicians who look after the most troubled young people in the country, children and young people who are having mental health crises and who are in a desperate way. They tell us that NHS care for children and young people in mental health crisis is very patchy. These young people feel very upset, very distressed, they may have self-harmed, they have very negative self-thoughts, possibly including suicidal intent, and they feel hopeless and that they can’t go on. Some may recently have tried to take their own lives”.
It is clear from recent evidence that pressure on mental health services for children in the NHS system is increasing significantly, with figures from NHS Digital concluding that the number of under-18s attending A&E in England due to a mental health crisis has risen by more than half in the past five years.
Bed-blocking is also an obvious problem in this area, with services for children having been significantly hampered by lack of inpatient beds.
Luciana Berger MP, a member of the Commons health select committee and ex-shadow minister for mental health, indicated her belief that the figures are indicative of a huge malaise in this aspect of the healthcare system.
“This feedback from clinicians working at the frontline exposes the depths of the crisis facing child and adolescent mental health services in England. Where else in the NHS do 72% of our doctors tell us that the services being provided are inadequate or very inadequate? This worsening situation is totally unacceptable and compromises the recovery and future life chances of some of the most vulnerable young people in our country”.
Spending on early intervention schemes among councils fell from £3.2bn a year in 2010-11 to just £1.4bn in 2014-15, while even Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged that mental health services for children are the greatest area of weakness in the NHS.
According to a survey carried out by Workingmums.co.uk, over half of the working mothers in the UK struggle with holiday and after-school care.
It is notable that childcare was a particularly hot topic during the last general election, but the focus has been primarily on early years childcare.
And the survey noted that the focus of the government on free childcare for children aged between three and four, along with the tax-free childcare initiative, are not serving the needs of the majority of working mums.
Under the terms of this agreement, families where both parents work will be able to claim back up to 20 per cent of childcare costs, up to a maximum of £2,000 a year for each child aged under 12.
However, the Workingmums.co.uk survey indicated that older children are as much of an issue for working mothers as the younger offspring covered by the legislation.
The survey is seen as being particularly pertinent for the NHS, where a huge number of working moms are already resident.
Having interviewed 2,300 mothers across the UK, it is clear that childcare for school-aged children is a massive problem.
57 per cent of respondents indicated that this was the case for them.
In addition to those who responded to the survey, a further 14 per cent of respondents aren’t clear on whether the existing childcare plans of the government will actually be of assistance to them.
And a third are currently in receipt of tax credits, but face cuts to their existing childcare support.
It is also clear from the survey that a lack of flexible childcare available to working parents can be a serious issue for working mothers.
41 per cent of those who responded to the survey indicated that the childcare options currently available to them were insufficient in terms of flexibility.
This should be particularly of concern to the National Health Service, as this figure is particularly likely to include both those starting work early or late in the day.
Naturally, a large number of NHS workers fit these two descriptions.
With the government currently planning to make serious changes to the existing NHS culture to implement what it describes as a true seven-day working culture, there is no doubt that pressure will be placed on childcare arrangements within the NHS.
Meanwhile, the survey indicated that childcare costs is the most common barrier preventing working mothers from returning to the work environment.
Sixty-one percent of respondents indicated that childcare commitments are currently making it difficult for them to return to work. This was a small increase from the same survey last year.
The issues related to childcare costs were further underlined by the fact that 45 per cent of respondents stated that they are currently reliant on grandparents.
Although there is now more of an appetite for sharing care between both parents, it is also clear that women continue to take the main carer role within many families.
56 per cent of mums reported that they do more housework and childcare than their partners, compared to 22 per cent who say these tasks are equally shared.
Commenting on the results, Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, said: “The survey results show there are significant problems with the cost and availability of childcare and with the kind of flexible childcare options that parents are increasingly demanding. In the last general election, childcare featured prominently, yet most of the focus was on early years. Childcare for school-aged children consequently remains a particular problem and parents feel that this not being addressed by government policy.”
The Royal Society of Medicine has confirmed a conference programme aimed at reducing injuries in sport played at schools across the UK.
Tackling school sports injury will take place on Monday 14th September at the Royal Society of Medicine in London.
The conference has attracted a panel of prestigious speakers, who will gather at the headquarters of the Royal Society of Medicine to discuss their areas of expertise.
Focus will particularly be placed on childhood injury resulting from sport participation, while attendees will also consider the implications of sport governing policy on the general health and well-being of children in the UK.
This has been a particular focus in Britain over the last few years, as the hosting of the London Olympics in London in 2012 was intended to herald a new era of sports participation.
But information released in July as part of Sport England’s annual active people survey suggests that the legacy of the Olympics has been mixed in terms of getting people involved in sport.
Tackling school sports injury will be chaired by Professor John Ashton, President of the RSM’s Epidemiology & Public Health Section, and Alysson Pollock, Professor of Public Health Research and Policy, Queen Mary University of London.
Pollock has a particularly strong grounding in this subject, having authored the tome “Tackling rugby: what every parent should know about injuries.”
Ahead of the meeting, Professor Ashton noted that sports injuries are an aspect of schooling that is perhaps often taken for granted and discounted.
“School sports are an essential part of every child’s experience. They contribute to health and wellbeing and character formation. In recent years there has been an increasing awareness of the inherent risks in some sports especially those with physical contact. It is important that we find ways for children to continue to participate in what is often an exciting part of their lives without compromising their future,” Ashton reflected.
Several high-profile speakers have been lined up for the conference, as the Royal Society of medicine endeavours to deliver and engaging and enlightening event.
Mr John Ridge, Director of Health and Safety at Ampleforth College will be among the speakers. Ampleforth has a particularly strong sporting reputation, having educated three recent rugby union internationals, including England captain Lawrence Dallaglio.
The school also frequently hosts the annual Bunbury English Schools’ Cricket Festival, which has featured a host of top international cricketers over the years.
Ampleforth has nurtured a culture that challenges the notion that sports accidents are inevitable and should therefore not be afforded undue scrutiny or review, and Ridge will speak on this subject.
Professor Jack Anderson, Professor of Law at Queen’s University, Belfast, will discuss the legal implications of the concussion ‘crisis’ for sport while Mr Errol Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, will discuss the potential for improvement in injury prevention arising from school sports.
Finally, Dr Trish Gorley, University of Stirling, will discuss the perception of sport participation among children, and Professor Eric Anderson, University of Winchester, will give a lecture titled Organised, competitive sport: A cycle of abuse.
The conference is one of 400 academic and public meetings that are organised by the society annually.
Analysis published by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) suggests that the health of children in the UK is hugely dependent on geographical location.
The disparity between the experience and physical well-being of young people is so stark as to be reasonably defined as a ‘postcode lottery’.
This divergence in the health of children is perhaps best summed up by the fact that a child in a reception class in Barking and Dagenham is over 250 per cent more likely to be obese than a child of the same age in Richmond upon Thames. Yet only 18 miles separate these two areas.
In similar statistical indicators, a 5 year-old child in Leicester is over five times more likely to have tooth decay than a similarly aged child in West Sussex.
On a broader regional level, it is clear that the south east benefits from significantly above average health in UK terms. It is estimated, based on the NCB research, that over 15,000 case of ill-health could be prevented if children in the north west had access to the same level of health and development.
The study will undoubtedly raise questions about inequality in the UK, and particularly whether wealthier areas of the country benefit from superior services.
Data compiled by the NCB clearly indicates that young people who grow up in areas of relative deprivation are simply far more likely to suffer from ill health and poor development.
Children in the 30 most deprived local authorities were significantly more likely than those in privileged areas to suffer from obesity, tooth decay, accidental injuries and lower educational development.
While more research needs to be carried out in order to understand all of the reasons behind this, the National Children’s Bureau still concluded that there is an inextricable link between poverty and relatively poor health.
Speaking on behalf of the NCB, its Chief Executive, Anna Feuchtwang, had the following to say:
“It is shocking that two children growing up in neighbouring areas can expect such a wildly different quality of health.
“As these variations are closely linked to poverty, with those in areas with the highest levels of deprivation more likely to suffer from a range of health issues, we have to ask whether England is becoming a nation of two halves?
“The link between poverty and poor health is not inevitable. Work is urgently needed to understand how local health services can lessen the impact of living in a deprived area.
“We need local and national government to make the same efforts to narrow the gap in health outcomes across the country for under-fives as has been made to narrow the gap in achievement between poor and rich pupils in school. Government must make it a national mission over the next five years to ensure that the heath and development of the first five years of a child’s life is improved.”
Full regional and local health data from the report can be acquired online by clicking here.