Over 100,000 children rejected for mental health treatment

Average of 150 referrals a day turned away from NHS children's mental health services

More than 100,000 children referred to local specialist NHS mental health services have been rejected for treatment in the last 2 years.

New figures obtained from NHS Trusts in England confirm that from a total of 652,023 cases referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), 109,613 children were turned away – equivalent to an average of 150 a day.

The number could be significantly higher, as one in five Trusts which responded to the request failed to report the number of rejected referrals.

The charity is now calling on Government to shift the focus of children and young people’s mental health services towards early intervention, to ensure that young people’s mental health does not have to reach crisis point before they are able to get help. 

Record numbers of children contacted Childline about suicidal feelings in 2016/17, it was revealed by Childline's Not Alone Anymore annual review. Mental and emotional health is now the most common reason for a child to contact Childline, with the service carrying out 63,622 counselling sessions in 2016/17. 

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “It is desperately sad to see so many young people facing distress around mental health issues being forced to wait months for assessment by CAMHS, many of whom are then rejected for treatment altogether. This risks leaving them in limbo while their condition potentially reaches crisis point. 

“We recognise the hard work of mental health professionals in trying to help young people get their lives back on track. However, too many children who need help are struggling access support and treatment which can help them to recover.

“The Government’s upcoming Green Paper on mental health must urgently evaluate the early support systems available to young people to ensure that no child is left to suffer in silence.”

Waiting times for assessment up to 5 and a half months

  • waiting times between CAMHS referral and assessment ranged from 2 days to 5 and a half months
  • average waiting time in 2016/17 was 8 weeks
  • increasing demand for services means many young people, including those who have suffered sexual abuse and neglect, did not meet the high clinical threshold to qualify for treatment.

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"I was referred to CAMHS but I was on a waiting list for 8 months and during that time my anxiety got worse so I never went because I was too scared"
Girl, aged 17

Childline counselling sessions

  • in 2016, Childline carried out 63,622 counselling sessions with young people with mental and emotional health concerns
  • this is equivalent to 1 call every 12 minutes.

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