Children in Wiltshire waiting months for mental health assessments

Chances of early intervention are missed

Author: Aaron HarperPublished 16 hours ago

Children in Wiltshire are being forced to wait months for a mental health assessment with no guarantee of being accepted into a treatment service.

The latest figures from the Children’s Commission report on children’s mental health services in 2022-23 show young people in Wiltshire are waiting an average of 116 days to access Child and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS).

In that time, 4,900 children have been referred, but many find they don’t meet the threshold for specialist care, and months on waiting lists mean they miss out on opportunities for early intervention.

NHS mental health nurse specialist Emma Taylor told Greatest Hits Radio that the figures were worrying but not a surprise.

“We’ve seen the need for services grow year-on-year for a long time, and as that waiting list grows, we also see the number of young people being accepted into services decline,” she said.

It means that children end up at the front of the queue and are not accepted into treatment services.

Emma said: “We have a whole generation of young people asking for support that they just aren’t getting.”

Vital chances to intervene were lost

As the wait for assessments continues, children’s mental health worsens as early interventions are missed.

“A lot of people get to the assessment point and are sent home with help from staff or early intervention tools,” Emma said, adding: “They can be really helpful if they’re put in place at the right time.”

But with long waiting lists, by the time children are evaluated, it’s too late.

And the impact is felt the most by children under 10 years old.

Emma told us: “Because their presentations tend to be more in terms of behavioral things like sleep difficulties or tantrums or separation difficulties, as opposed to things like self-harm or suicidal ideation, it’s even more unlikely to be accepted into a service. than a teenager.”

As a result, parents are forced to spend thousands of pounds on private assessments – but are often not accepted by schools, meaning they still need an NHS assessment.

And parents are turning to Google and social media for help “decoding” their child’s behavior, something Emma warns against.

“They are very unregulated areas where anyone can express an opinion and show it as fact. And as a result, people end up with inappropriate information that is not safe,” she said.

The new mental wellbeing app is being tested

But Emma is trying to bridge the gap for young people.

She is part of a team that created an app called Embers the Dragon to improve children’s mental health and well-being.

The app aims to develop children’s emotional skills through the use of digital games and activities.

It includes animated videos that children can watch that are supported by an emotional development skill.

“You might understand what anger feels like in your body, for example, and kids just watch it as part of their normal screen time. But they are actually learning very important.”

It is currently being trialled by London South Bank University and is open to children aged three to seven.

Listen to all the latest news from across the UK on the hour, every hour, on Greatest Hits Radio on DAB, and the Greatest Hits Radio app.