Child mental health services in Blackpool, a coastal town in the UK, are facing significant delays, leaving families waiting for months to access the necessary support. Recent figures show that 45% of the 285 referrals waiting to be seen at the end of December 2023 had been waiting for over 18 weeks. The long waiting times are partly due to difficulties in recruiting sufficient staff, a problem that the trust is currently addressing.
Demand for Blackpool’s child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) has increased by 9% over the past year, with 5,097 appointments attended between April and December 2023. The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a rise in mental health issues among children and young people, as highlighted by an NHS survey published in November 2023. The survey revealed that one in five children and young people in England aged eight to 25 had a probable mental health issue.
Despite the challenges, some Blackpool patients (44%) have managed to secure an appointment within four weeks, surpassing the national average of 37%. However, the recent case of Lancashire teenager Max Sumner’s death has highlighted failings within the CAMHS system. Coroner Kate Bisset concluded that these failings contributed to the tragedy. The health trust has acknowledged that some of its care “fell below the standard we expect.”
Mike Chew, the divisional director responsible for communities and families at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, acknowledged that recruitment difficulties have played a role in the long waiting times. However, he reassured the public that steps are being taken to address this issue. The service has made progress in filling vacant positions, and successful applicants are currently undergoing necessary checks before starting. In the meantime, patients on waiting lists are being directed to other services as needed. Families have been provided with information about alternative support services and helplines. Additionally, the recruitment of two new staff members will allow for the introduction of additional appointments during evenings and weekends.
In conclusion, child mental health services in Blackpool are facing substantial challenges, resulting in long waiting times for families seeking support. Recruitment difficulties have been identified as a contributing factor, but efforts are being made to address this issue. The trust is working towards improving staffing levels and providing alternative avenues of support for patients on waiting lists.