Perspectives: future in mind for London’s children and young people

In his second blog for mental health month, Steve Ryan shares why we should all demand the best we can for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

In my last blog I wrote about the approach we were taking in London to help children and young people when they presented to services with a mental health crisis. Improving how we provide care and support in crisis was one of the key areas for action in the national document Future in Mind published in March 2015. This document set a vision of transformation of mental health itself and of mental health care services over the next five years, from dealing with the causes of mental health problems in communities, schools and in early employment through to ensuring the most specialist services deliver high quality, effective care as locally as possible.

This vision was backed up with cash!

Nationally an additional £250 million a year, for five years with London getting its share. The plan is to provide care to at least 70,000 more children and young people per year with the aim of getting an extra 1,700 care staff in place to help meet that need.

Future in Mind also, importantly, reminds us that mental health is a team game that local authorities, schools, voluntary and community organisations and charities as well as the NHS play. As a Leicester City fan I can certainly appreciate the importance of great team work, leadership and humility! Sorry to any Spurs fans reading this: sure you’ll do really well next year.

The money was given to each local area through its Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). They receive most of the taxpayers’ NHS money to spend on healthcare in their area and they work out how best to spend it. They would have typically received around £400–500,000 yearly and they came up with their own local plan, working with the team I described above and engaging with children and young people. These plans are all published now on CCG websites. So why not find the plan for your local CCG on its website?

One of the key areas of work that all CCGS were asked to address was in eating disorders. We now have very good evidence of how to provide the best care to help children and young people recover from eating disorders and some specific money was set aside to develop “Community Eating Disorders Services”. This means easier, earlier access, less barriers, quicker treatment by a single team that can meet all needs and effective treatment leading to quicker recovery and less need to stay in hospital for long periods — which let’s face it — is best avoided unless it’s really necessary. We are monitoring how long it takes patients to get treatment and next year for the first time, minimum standards of waiting times will be set.

As well as improving care for those with an eating disorder, other areas that London Local Transformation Plans are addressing include:

  • Improving access to services including developing “Hubs”, drop-in spaces and Single Points of Access Working with schools to promote mental health and identify problems and get help early
  • Improving access and services for those living with a learning disability such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder or Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Better help in a crisis
  • Better use of information and digital technology to support care and measure how good the care we give actually is.

Between now and 2020 the local plans will be driving improvement in local CAMHS services and ensuring that each part of London’s CAMHS connects and collaborates with its neighbours. We want to transform the experience that children and young people, families carers and communities have of mental health services. We have a simple but daunting ambition. We are aiming to create the best possible CAMHS services for London, and want London CAMHS to be the best in the UK.

It’s time we all demanded the best we can for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

About the author:

With over 30 years experience practicing as a paediatrician, as well as 11 years as an Executive Medical Director in NHS Trusts, Steve Ryan aims to transform mental health services for children and young people in his role as Strategic lead for CAMHS Transformation for the Healthy London Partnership.

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