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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Report calls for South Cumbria mental health improvements

URGENT funding and support to provide the highest level of care for children with mental health problems is needed in South Cumbria, experts warn.

A groundbreaking report, published today, claims improvements must be made across the area to ensure the safety of rapidly increasing numbers of self harming or suicidal young people.

The document – Born in South Lakeland – Developing Emotionally Resilient Children – highlights the fact that there are no “tier four” beds – or specialised hospital care for the most serious cases – in the county.

It goes on to urge NHS England to speed up plans to increase the services available for the most at risk youngsters as the number of urgent cases hits “unprecedented” levels in Cumbria.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, who commissioned the report following hundreds of complaints from parents desperate for an overhaul of the existing provision, said he felt “heartbroken” at the difficulties faced by young people experiencing mental health difficulties.

Speaking to the Evening Mail, he pledged to be “terrier like” in ensuring the recommendations in the document are acted upon.

He said: “This is not a witch hunt, but I believe our young people have a right to expect a higher level of service than the one they have received in the past and we have a duty to make sure it is provided for them.

“The most pressing thing to come out of this beyond professional level investigation is the urgent need for ‘tier four’ provision.

“But we also need a single point of contact to access help as well as a need to break down the taboo that still surrounds mental health issues.”

The report was compiled by independent, high level clinicians following an eight-month investigation.

It was written by Glenys Marriott, the former chairwoman of South Tees NHS Hospitals Trust board, with the help of sixth form student Zoe Butler, an Inspira young adviser for South Lakeland, and John Asher, leader of the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide in the area.

The team audited 84 complaints and interviewed 200 people as part of the in depth look at mental health provision in South Cumbria.

Among the findings was the fact that children and teenagers who need hospitalisation for mental health problems are being held in general children’s wards because of a shortage of “tier four” placements.

They can then be sent to hospitals across the country when the nearest provision available to youngsters in South Lakeland, Barrow and Millom – Lancaster and Preston – are full.

Mr Farron added that he has spent the past few months pressing funding bodies such as the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust on the issue.

He said: “I will admit to feeling a level of frustration with it and I hope this report will help move things forward.”

Mental health provision for children and young people in South Lakeland and Barrow has come under fire from experts over the past three years following the high profile deaths of both 15-year-old Helena Farrell, from Kendal, and 10-year-old Dalton boy Harry Hucknall.

Both were found to have been let down by service providers – including the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service, based in Fairfield Lane, Barrow, in subsequent serious case reviews.

But a spokeswoman for the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said extra investment in services had already been made alongside an increase in trained staff who had dealt with more than 2,700 external referrals to CAMHS in the past 12 months.

She said: “Everyone has an important role to play in safeguarding the emotional health and well being of young people and only by working together can we reduce the chances of this happening in the future.”

Have your say

It is such a tragedy that the service set up to help children and adolescents with mental health has been sorely lacking for as long as i can remember. I know from personal experience that unless the right therapies/ strategies are employed children with mental health then grow into a damaged adult. A lot of children/ adults with autism have mental health issues from the lack of specialist services in Cumbria. I welcome this report but just hope it has an outcome. Thank goodness for Tim Farron and the people who cared enough to produce this piece of work.

Posted by janet bury on 30 July 2014 at 00:01

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