Concerns have been raised in recent months over rising demands for children’s mental health support, with more young people coming forward “throughout and post” pandemic.
The latest meeting of NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Governing Body on Tuesday, May 24, heard numerous steps are being taken to help address the approximate 34% increase in referrals compared to prior to the pandemic.
Matt Thubron, CCG head of contracting and performance, told the virtual meeting it is an issue that has been increasing over recent years.
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He said: “Children’s mental health waiting times have deteriorated in February and in March and that’s as a result of the sustained increase that we’ve been reporting throughout and post Covid period.
“Referrals are around about 34% higher than pre-pandemic levels and that sustained level is quite volatile throughout certain months.
“The focus remains on continuing to support children, young people and their families.”
He added additional staffing is now in place to support child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), while recruitment has again commenced in terms of lower level support, although “there are still workforce pressures”.
Mr Thubron continued: “We are working quite closely with the foundation trust and services to ensure they get back up to speed with their staffing models.
“But we’re also looking at alternative staffing models and alternative pathways with meetings to help support services in terms of recovery.”
Ann Fox, CCG executive director of nursing, quality and safety, said they are working on redesigning some pathways to accessing services, which they hope will “fast forward” positive changes and reduce waiting times.
She said: “Providers are very engaged with this and looking at what we can do to make some improvements both with the workforce and with the pathways as quickly as we can.”
Debbie Burnicle, lay member for patient and public involvement, said it was positive to hear of the work taking place.
She said: “That was really good to hear about the children’s development because it is really worrying those waiting times, it’s so important to people.”