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Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Volume 582: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2014

15. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of child and adolescent mental health services. (904118)

We know that there is a varied picture of services across the country, where decisions on spend and allocation of resources are made by local commissioners. NHS England is preparing to publish a report based on its recent analysis of tier 4 child and adolescent mental health services, along with a service improvement plan. We expect these to be published in the coming weeks.

A recent survey conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that over a quarter of trainee psychiatrists have had to send a child or young person more than 200 miles away from their family in order to access an appropriate bed. What is the Minister going to do about this totally unacceptable situation?

I agree, and that is why NHS England undertook the work to analyse exactly what the position is across the country. In fact it is very varied. There are some regions where it is fine, and others where it is not acceptable. I think we would all agree that it is completely unacceptable for children to be sent sometimes hundreds of miles away from home. When it publishes its report, it—[Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) would just listen, when it publishes its report, it will be publishing an action plan of the steps it will take very soon to meet any shortfalls in provision.

Although I supported the Health and Social Care Bill at every stage, I have always harboured some concerns about the ability of GPs to commission mental health services. Mental health is a fast-growing problem and a challenge to the NHS for the future. What assurances can the Minister give me that GPs will receive the appropriate specialist guidance, if required?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, and it is a legitimate one. A lot of work is being undertaken by NHS England and the national clinical director Geraldine Strathdee, a highly regarded individual, to strengthen the quality of commissioning of mental health services. It falls short in many areas at the moment and it is essential that it is improved.

Ministers say that they are committed to parity of esteem between mental and physical health, yet we have already learned from an NHS England report that three quarters of children with anxiety or a diagnosable depression are not receiving the treatment they need. This is plainly unacceptable. It would not happen to children presenting with a broken arm or asthma, so can the Minister please tell the House when he will translate his rhetoric into reality?

Absolutely, and we are doing it. One of the problems we are having to confront is that when the Labour Government introduced the 18-week waiting standard, unbelievably they left out mental health. When mental health is left out from a standard of that sort, that determines where the money goes, and ever since then mental health has lost out. We are committed to changing that.