More Welsh children waiting longer for mental health services

With some children waiting more than 14 weeks for psychiatric services in Wales, the Liberal Democrats today claimed the problem is being ignored by ministers.

The Party said children and young people were being “put at risk” by longer waits for treatment, pointing to government figures which showed the number waiting more than 14 weeks jumped in a year from 199 in January 2013 to 736 in January this year.

Party leader Kirsty Williams (pitured) accused the Welsh Government of “astounding” complacency and said there had been little progress in a decade since the then-Children’s Commissioner, Peter Clarke, warned in his annual report in 2005-2006 that children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) were “in crisis across Wales”.

She urged Ministers to investigate waiting times between the initial assessment and subsequent service referral, to routinely publish readmission statistics and to consistently and accurate report inappropriate placements on adult mental health wards.

Ms Williams also said the Welsh Government should consider the introduction of mental health education to the school curriculum and the introduction of a national framework to ensure continuity of treatment to adult services.

“It’s almost a decade on since the Children’s Commissioner first warned that children and adolescent mental health services provision was in ‘crisis across Wales’, yet many child health experts assess that this is still the case today,” she said.

“One in 10 children and adolescents will experience a mental health issue, yet there are still serious concerns over the provision of services in Wales.

“Waiting lists are too long, there is a lack of investment and focus on early intervention, too many young people are still inappropriately placed on adult mental health wards, safety checks are not common practice and many young people get lost in the transition between CAMHS and adult mental health services.”

She added the party wanted a “constructive debate” about how to improve services in Wales, but said: “Sadly, the Welsh Labour Government is determined to bury its head in the sand and ignore the catalogue of concerns and warnings that young people in Wales are being put at risk.

“The complacency is astounding and the Welsh Labour Government should hang its head in shame.”

In response a Welsh government spokesperson insisted waiting times were a priority, adding, “We have seen an increase in demand in recent years in part because of changes in 2012 for services to care for young people until their 18th birthday.

“The Mental Health (Wales) Measure, which came into force in 2012, enables more patients be seen by local mental health services, which means that CAMHS can concentrate on treating the most complex patients.

“The health minister, Mark Drakeford, recently announced an extra £250,000 a year for CAMHS services, which will ensure more young people are cared for in Wales, reducing the need for costly out-of-area placements.”