Gloucestershire is grappling with a worrying situation as more than 620 children and teenagers are left waiting for mental health care, with some enduring wait times of over two years. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly devastating for children between the ages of four and 11, prompting concerns from Councillor Collette Finnegan regarding the efforts being made to address this issue.
Health officials in Gloucestershire NHS acknowledge the severity of the situation and are striving to make progress. The waiting list for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) currently ranges from 18 months to two years, causing significant distress for many young children whose well-being is of utmost importance.
During a committee meeting, Douglas Blair, the chief executive of Gloucestershire Health and Care Foundation Trust, addressed these concerns. While he acknowledged that the waiting list has decreased since the beginning of the year, there are still 627 individuals awaiting care. Among them, approximately 60% have been waiting for less than a year, while the remaining 40% have endured wait times exceeding a year. Despite the ongoing long waiting times, the trust believes that progress is being made in tackling the issue.
Mr. Blair explained that the trust has faced a substantial surge in demand and has taken steps to expand its workforce in various ways. They have allocated additional mental health support resources to schools, tapping into their existing workforce. Although the core child and adolescent mental health service has seen a reduction in staff numbers over the year, they currently have around 70% of their personnel in post, with an additional 16% in the recruitment pipeline.
In response to the urgency of the situation, councillors have agreed to establish a task and finish group that will delve deeper into the matter. This group will work towards finding solutions and improving access to mental health care for children and teenagers in Gloucestershire.
Addressing this issue promptly and effectively is crucial for the community, ensuring that young individuals receive the necessary mental health support they need. By prioritizing the well-being of children and teenagers, Gloucestershire can take a significant step forward in addressing the long waiting times and enhancing mental health care services for its young population.