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GPs to lead on improving children’s access to mental health

Call for greater GP and CCG involvement in commissioning young people’s mental health

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Young people and children’s mental health services need a complete overhaul to ensure that care is more accessible, care and support minister Norman Lamb has insisted. He called yesterday for GP practices to be more involved in improving access to interventions and support, and for clinical commissioning groups to lead commissioning arrangements in conjunction with local authorities.

The government last year commissioned the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce, and NHS England has welcomed the Taskforce’s new plans for a ‘radical shake-up’ of youth mental health care, revealed in its report Future in mind – promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

The report’s authors make a number of proposals the government wishes to see by 2020, regarding tackling stigma and improving attitudes to mental illness; introducing more access and waiting time standards for services; establishing ‘one stop shop’ support services in the community; and improving access for children and young people who are particularly vulnerable.

The Taskforce criticised the complexity of current commissioning arrangements, and warned of “a lack of clear leadership and accountability arrangements for children’s mental health across agencies including CCGs and local authorities, with the potential for children and young people to fall though the net”. It called for “a step change in how care is delivered”, moving away from a system defined in terms of the services that organisations provide towards one built around the needs of children, young people and their families, to ensure “easy access to the right support from the right service at the right time”. They proposed that this could be delivered by:

  • joining up services locally through collaborative commissioning approaches between CCGs, local authorities and other partners, enabling all areas to accelerate service transformation;
  • having lead commissioning arrangements in every area for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing services, responsible for developing a single integrated plan … in most cases the CCG would establish lead commissioning arrangements working in close collaboration with local authorities.

The Taskforce recommended that integrating mental health specialists directly into schools and GP practices would make mental health support more visible and easily accessible for children and young people; they called for additional funding for ‘one-stop-shop’ services in every area, to provide mental health support and advice in the community, in an accessible and welcoming environment.

The report also said GPs and other health professionals, as well as school staff, should have mental health training to enable them more easily to identify problems, and ensure that young people get the help that they need.

Norman Lamb said: “We need a whole child and whole family approach, where we are promoting good mental health from the earliest ages. We need to improve access to interventions and support when and where it is needed, whether that’s in schools, GP practices, hospitals or in crisis care ... Crucially, we must make it much easier for a child or young person to seek help and support in non-stigmatised settings.”

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