Demand for mental health services for children and young people is pushing the NHS to “breaking point”, MPs have warned.
The Health and Social Care Committee of MPs said that there is a risk of mental health care “slipping backwards”.
They also warned that the scale and speed of improvements are “simply not sufficient for the task at hand”.
It is “unacceptable” that more than half of young people do not receive the mental health support they need, they added.
A report on mental health services for children and young people highlighted that need has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
Estimates suggest that around one in six young people had a diagnosable mental health disorder in 2020, up from one in nine in 2017.
“We are deeply concerned that the pressure created by fighting a pandemic and dealing with the backlog it creates is leading to a neglect of long-standing mental health priorities, the MPs wrote.
They added: “Half of all mental health conditions become established before the age of 14, so whilst it is progress that the number of young people receiving treatment has risen from just 25% to around 40% of those with a diagnosable condition pre-pandemic, it is not acceptable that more than half of young people do not receive the mental health support they need.”
“The combination of this unmet need prior to the pandemic and additional needs created by the pandemic means that the scale and speed of improvements planned by the NHS are simply not sufficient for the task at hand.
“Significantly more ambition is needed and without urgent action there is a risk of provision slipping backwards.”
MPs also highlighted concerns over: funding of mental health services including mental health support teams in schools; issues with crisis care and inpatient stays; and concerns over workforce issues.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who chairs the committee, said: “Partly because of the pandemic, we are seeing demand for mental health treatment pushing NHS services to breaking point. Whilst we recognise that capacity to provide such services is increasing, we are not convinced it is happening at a fast enough rate.
“There is a growing risk that elective and emergency care pressures will mean mental health services once again become the poor relation.
“Our report uncovers good progress in schools provision but a continuing failure to find community care for too many young people who end up in inappropriate secure provision that makes their illness even worse.”
Meanwhile, an expert panel has rated the Government as “requires improvement” in the way it has fulfilled commitments made on improving mental health care.
The panel evaluated the Government’s progress against its policy commitments in the area of mental health services in England.
“The evidence we assessed shows that the Government’s progress against its commitments to improve mental health services in England requires improvement,” they concluded.
But they conceded that many of the commitments have been impacted by the pandemic, but raised concerns about a number of areas.
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