Young people in the United Kingdom are facing increasingly long waiting times for mental healthcare services.
A review by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Department of Health’s public body, has shown that children and teenagers are being put on waitlists, in some cases being forced to wait up to 18 months before they are treated. The CQC also concluded that nearly 40 percent of psychiatric services for U.K. youths need improvement.
Further accusations have referred to the healthcare system as a “postcode lottery” in which the immediacy with which a child is seen is dependent on whether or not he or she is near a clinic or hospital.
One of the most significant issues pertaining to this crisis is that because of the extended waiting times, many children’s mental health actually worsens. Some turn to self-harm while others experience serious setbacks in their academic lives.
One such individual, Alice Gibbs, was diagnosed with anorexia when she 12 years old. Gibbs had to wait six months to see a mental health professional, a wait time so lengthy that she believes it had a significant impact on her recovery. “Knowing that we had to wait for that help and things were only getting worse was scary,” recalls Gibbs. Despite receiving treatment for a number of years thereafter in Leicester, it was later recommended that she start seeing eating disorder specialists in London, a significant distance from where she lived, further testament to the idea of the controversial postcode lottery system.
The issue has been met with many Britons calling for immediate reform. “The system’s complexity and fragmentation must be overcome,” said Dr. Paul Lelliott, a doctor of the CQC. He added that vast improvements are necessary in order to “address those times when a child or young person feels let down or not listened to.” Furthermore, Dr. Andrew Molodynski from the British Medical Association stated, “Gaining access to necessary specialist care remains a serious concern in places. It is a need the government must address as a priority.” Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, has proposed a number of immediate and necessary steps the government must take to address the issue in response to the findings of the CQC report. “Poor quality children’s mental health services cannot be allowed to continue – there is too much at stake. The government needs to set maximum waiting times, action needs to be taken to reduce missed appointments and when children do miss appointments they must be safeguarded,” emphasized Reed.
The Department of Health, despite sanctioning the CQC’s study, has responded to the results by stating, “Our commitment to improving children’s mental healthcare is shown by… [an]additional £1.4 billion investment, more trained staff and more children and young people accessing care.”
Though Theresa May has stated in the past that she sees lack of quality health services as one of the key “burning injustices” in British society, it seems there are still major areas that are still seriously failing the general public. Whoever is to blame, it would seem that the one thing most people would agree on is that immediate improvements are necessary for the sake of the thousands of children who struggle with mental health issues on a daily basis.