Mental health therapy for Bedfordshire children soars through pandemic
Experts fear children and young people are at risk of lifelong mental illness due to the health crisis
The amount of therapy for mental health delivered to children in Bedfordshire has soared since the start of the pandemic, figures reveal.
Data from NHS England shows that 46,430 mental health treatment sessions were delivered to under-18s by NHS services in the Bedfordshire CCG area between April last year and January this year – 16.1 per cent more than in the same period 12 months before.
It reflects the trend across England, where the number of sessions delivered increased by 16.1 per cent to around 4 million.
This prompted the Royal College of Psychiatrists to warn that children and young people are at risk of lifelong mental illness due to the mental health crisis triggered by the pandemic.
The professional body is calling for the additional £500 million announced in the Government’s mental health recovery plan last month to urgently reach the frontline so that people can get the support they need.
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chair of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “As a frontline psychiatrist I’ve seen the devastating effect that school closures, disrupted friendships and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic have had on the mental health of our children and young people.
“Services were already struggling to cope with the number of children needing help before the pandemic hit, and they risk being overrun unless government ensures the promised money reaches the frontline quickly.”
The figures also show that in the eight months to January, 6,890 children and young people were referred to Bedfordshire CCG for mental health support, and around 186 emergency referrals were made to the crisis care team across the period.
A Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group (BLMK CCG) spokesman said: “BLMK CCG is working with our providers to make the most of investment in 2020/21 and working together to continue expanding and developing the provision of children mental health services in 2021/22.”
Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The extent of the mental health crisis is terrifying, but it will likely get a lot worse before it gets better.
“Services are at a very real risk of being overrun by the sheer volume of people needing help with their mental illness.
“While the recent funding announcement is welcome, we need this money to reach mental health services as soon as possible to tackle this crisis.”
Nadine Dorries, health minister and MP for Mid Bedfordshire, said: “I am acutely aware of how difficult this pandemic has been for many, especially children and young people, and I remain absolutely committed to supporting the mental wellbeing of everyone.
“Early intervention and treatment is vital, and we are providing an extra £2.3 billion a year to mental health services, this will help an additional 345,000 children and young people access NHS-funded services or school and college-based support by 2023-24.”