Research News

Children wait a decade for mental health support, report finds

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i3199 (Published 08 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3199

Something is rotten in the state of CAMHS [child and adolescent mental health services]

An audit of primary health care professionals in the area where I worked as a consultant paediatrician for 20 years as to why they referred children with a range of mental health problems to community paediatricians rather than to CAMHS [child and adolescent mental health services] showed that 100% of respondents were frustrated by the lack of responsiveness and evasiveness of CAMHS to referrals [Essex C, unpublished data]. Comments included "If CAMHS put as much effort in to seeing children as they do in deflecting referrals, children might get seen".

My experience is that CAMHS are poorly managed, have poor governance and little accountability. The long waiting lists for children to be seen in CAMHS are because of weak management which does not tackle the behaviour of many CAMHS practitioners. There is no accountability about the tiny case loads of many CAMHS staff, with children receiving repetitive ongoing appointments in some cases, and refusal to accept referrals in many other cases. Despite funding new posts in CAMHS [contrary to the CAMHS mantra that they receive little funding] the staff were not challenged about their professional practices. Providing more staff to behave in the same way would not solve the problem of CAMHS waiting lists.

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 June 2016
Charles Essex
Consultant Neurodevelopmental Paediatrician
Suite 115, 41 Oxford Street, Leamington Spa CV32 4RB