New mental health support in schools and colleges and faster access to NHS care

In 2017, the Government published its Green Paper for Transforming children and young people’s mental health, which detailed proposals for expanding access to mental health care for children and young people, building on the national NHS transformation programme which is already underway.

Its proposals were focused on providing additional support through schools and colleges and reducing waiting times for treatment. Following a 13-week public consultation, during which the Government received more than 2,700 responses, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education published its Response to the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper Consultation.

Supported by partners, NHS England and NHS Improvement is leading the delivery of two of the programme’s main commitments:

  • Establishing new Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs), jointly delivered with the Department for Education. MHSTs are intended to provide early intervention on some mental health and emotional wellbeing issues, such as mild to moderate anxiety, as well as helping staff within a school or college setting to provide a ‘whole school approach’ to mental health and wellbeing. The teams will act as a link with local children and young people’s mental health services and be supervised by NHS staff;
  • Trialling a four-week waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services, building on the expansion of NHS services already underway.

NHS England and NHS Improvement is also supporting the Mental Health Services and Schools and Colleges Link Programme which will bring together education and mental health services under Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to forge joint working and ensure long-term collaboration.

The Link Programme is a £9.3m national initiative led by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and funded by the Department for Education, which will be rolled out over four years. Every school, college and alternative provision will be trained through a series of workshops to pool their understanding and resources and to draw up long term plans, coordinated by CCGs.

The first Mental Health Support Teams were launched in 25 trailblazer areas announced in December 2018. These include 12 areas that are also testing a four-week waiting time. These trailblazer MHSTs are building up their capacity and capability during 2019. A further 57 sites were confirmed in July 2019, and these will start developing 123 Mental Health Support Teams during 2020.

NHS England and NHS Improvement regional teams are leading local areas through this process.  Further plans for the development of children and young people’s mental health care are described in the NHS Long Term Plan, and set out in detail for local areas in the Mental Health Implementation Plan.