Caring commissioners are leading change to services for children and young people with mental health issues

If you had any doubts about the degree to which CCGs care about commissioning child and adolescent mental health services, reading through the 94 applications for modest grants of up to £75k would put your mind at ease.

Just over a month ago NHS England advertised the opportunity to apply for small in-year grants to accelerate joint collaborative commissioning. CCGs were invited to lead bids working with partner agencies – schools, local authorities, or with other CCGs in clusters – to improve joined up commissioning, whether in just their own communities or stretching across wider areas.

The scheme is linked to the joint NHS England and Department of Health Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce that is working now to come up with solutions to the perennial ‘wicked problems’ that prevent us from achieving equality of provision between mental and physical health for our children and young people.

The role of commissioning and the risks of the current fragmentation between Health (CCGs and NHS England), Local Authorities and all 25,000 Schools Commissioners, each with their own budgets, were fully documented in the Health Select Committee report.

The YoungMind’s FOI into reductions or freezes in budgets in Local Authorities and CCGs are showing some compromise in the delivery of targeted and specialist services. But the difficulties that CAMHS is experiencing is being mitigated by creative commissioners who are using their local knowledge and skills to work with colleagues to provide services and, most importantly, involving young people and families to use the resources available to best advantage.

Have a look at the work done in Sheffield by commissioners working with Chilypep as an example of how young people can help improve the quality of provision and delivery.

In my time in the NHS I have worked with a wide range of commissioners. The best walk a continuous tightrope of challenge and support, helping me and my colleagues to deliver the best possible service but not afraid to challenge the status quo.

What characterised those I still remember with respect, was curiosity, a healthy regard for the evidence base, and an appreciation of the needs of their community. Being a commissioner is difficult and at times thankless – but the importance of their role in leading change and improvement is undeniable.

I think it is significant and important that for once a scheme to build capacity is offered to commissioners to give them time and space to come together, to think about what their community needs and to share the learning with us all. 

Jacqueline Cornish

Dr Jacqueline Cornish was the National Clinical Director for Children, Young People and Transition to Adulthood in NHS England from 2013 to 2019.

As a clinician she specialised in pioneering treatments for childhood cancer and leukaemia, and brought to NHS England 20 years’ leadership experience in the NHS, having been Head of Division of Women’s and Children’s Services at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, and a former Director of Paediatric Stem Cell Transplant (SCT) at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

The post of National Clinical Director for Children and Young People is now held by Professor Simon Kenny, Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool and National Clinical Lead for Paediatric Surgery for the Getting It Right First Time programme.

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  1. Julia Winstone says:

    Good to see positive changes in services for children and young people with mental health issues. Bringing mental health on a par with physical health should be an urgent priority.