New resource to improve young people’s mental health services

A new resource with tools for commissioning effective mental health services for children and young people has been published.

NHS England has published the new model specification for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) targeted and specialist services (tiers 2 and 3) which treat patients with a range of emotional and behavioural difficulties such as behavioural problems, depression and eating disorders, to help improve the standards of care being given to vulnerable youngsters.

It was developed by professionals working in the NHS and Local Authorities and young people and their parents were consulted.

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s Director for Long Term Conditions, said: “This is an important document for all professionals in the field of CAMHS.

“The best services are ones that place children, young people and their families at the centre of their care, offering a choice of evidence based treatments to help children and young people achieve their goals.

“We urge all CAMHS commissioners and providers to take note of the updated model specification and compare it against their own. By sharing best practice and improving systems we help to change our patients’ experience. The earlier we can intervene and treat young people the better.”

The guidance states ‘there has been universal acknowledgment in policy over the past ten years of the challenges faced by children and young people in developing resilience and psychological wellbeing’.

It provides a template for commissioners to use in their local area to develop individual specifications with treatment providers. It encourages the involvement of children, young people and their parents and carers in specification development and helps commissioners to be clear about how providers fit within local care pathways of treatment.

The guidance states that a number of disorders are persistent and will continue into adult life unless properly treated. Fifty per cent of lifetime mental illness (except dementia) begins by the age of 14 and 75 per cent by age 18. Young people who are not in education, employment or training report particularly low levels of happiness and self-esteem.

Mental health problems in children and young people are associated with excess costs estimated at between £11,030 and £59,130 annually per child. These costs fall to a variety of agencies (e.g. education, social services and youth justice) and also include the direct costs to the family of the child’s illness.

But there are clinically proven and cost-effective interventions, for example conduct disorder, where £150k could be saved over a lifetime time through early intervention as the costs of providing care in the community are far less than inpatient care.