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Children’s mental health: getting early support “leaves much to chance,” says commissioner

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1732 (Published 10 April 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l1732
  1. Jacqui Thornton
  1. London

Local authorities and the NHS in England spend just over £14 a child (€16.30; $18.30) on preventive “low level” mental health support, and over a third of areas are seeing a cut in spending, warns a report by the Children’s Commissioner.1

This is the first analysis of data on preventive and early intervention services for treating problems including anxiety and eating disorders, such as support provided by school nurses or counsellors, drop-in centres, and online counselling services.

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, says that these services are vital for offering early help to children with mental health problems and can often prevent conditions from developing into much more serious illnesses. But she said that the system is “highly fragmented” and “leaves much to chance.”

She warned, “There is a danger that we continue to have a system that fails to help children until they are so unwell that they need specialist intervention.”

“Postcode lottery”

The report showed that local areas, including spending by local authorities and NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), allocated £226m for low level mental health services in 2018-19—just over …

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