Responding to new NHS England figures showing that one-in-five children and young people had a probable mental disorder in 2023, Sean Duggan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, said:
“Although the overall prevalence rate of probable mental disorder in children, young people and young adults has thankfully stabilised, it is worrying that it is still much higher than before the pandemic.
“These are all young people who will benefit from specialist mental health support and are unlikely to get better without it.
“But we know there is already a significant treatment gap in the number of children and young people with a mental disorder able to access specialist mental health services and any increase in prevalence will make this even worse.
“While our members have been working really hard to ensure that children and young people can access support as soon as possible, it has been very challenging due to the huge increase in demand.
“Our members have also told us that patients generally have more serious mental health issues and those admitted to hospital have a longer length of stay, with high bed occupancy rates in the sector all year. This is on top of children and young peoples’ mental health services being historically underfunded and the significant workforce challenges across the sector.
“This new data lays bare the need to introduce the piloted waiting time targets for children and young peoples’ community mental health services and expand mental health support teams into all schools.”