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 is leading the delivery of two of the programme’s main commitments:

  • Establishing new Mental Health Support Teams (MHSTs), which is jointly delivered with the Department for Education. MHSTs will develop models of early intervention on mild to moderate mental health and emotional wellbeing issues, such as anxiety, behavioural difficulties or friendship issues, as well as providing help to staff within a school and college setting. 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 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 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 Clinical Commissioning Groups.

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 MHSTs are expected to begin work by the end 2019.

A further 57 sites were confirmed in July 2019, with 123 Mental Health Support Teams to start work in those areas by the end of 2020.

NHS England & 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 detailed in the NHS Long-Term Plan.