Children told to exaggerate mental health symptoms to ensure they receive treatment

Doctors are being prompted to tell children “to pretend their mental health is worse than it is” to receive treatment, MPs have heard.

Shadow health minister Barbara Keeley made the comments on the back of a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report which said that too many children find themselves at “crisis point” before accessing mental health services.

The CQC’s review of mental health services for children and young people in England found that patients face long waiting lists, inappropriately high eligibility criteria and gaps in service provision which make it difficult for them and their families to get support.

Ms Keely, raising the issue with an urgent question in the Commons, said: “This report is the latest piece of recent evidence revealing systematic failures in our mental health services.

“It follows similar reports in the last few weeks which call into question the Government’s claims to have made mental health an equal priority to physical health.

“In this report we see evidence of services actively putting up barriers to treatment, resulting in children and young people having to reach crisis point before being able to get access to the right treatment.

She added: “These high thresholds are even prompting GPs to tell children to pretend that they’re mental health is worse than it is.”

Health Minister Steve Brine told MPs that a lot of the concerns raised in the CQC had already been addressed in a Green Paper published in December.

He added: “Let’s remember this was a report that we commissioned, we don’t hide from these things.

“We mustn’t hide from these things and we don’t want to bury our heads in the sand.

“We have got to recognise and build on the examples of good person-centred care that are taking place in our country at the moment and that’s why we’re putting the money in behind it.”

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