Children and young people in Birmingham are struggling to access support for mental health problems on the NHS, our investigation into services provided by Forward Thinking Birmingham (FTB) reveals.
Among the issues identified were:
- Delayed responses from the mental health crisis support team putting young people at risk
- Difficulties getting suitable support leading some young people and their parents to turn to A&E as their only option
- Long waiting times after referral meaning opportunities for early intervention are missed, with young people’s mental health deteriorating before their first assessment
- Lack of care plans resulting in some young people receiving insufficient care and/or inappropriate treatment for their needs
- Inadequate understanding and support for young people with mental health issues and other conditions such as autism
During our research with over 200 FTB service users and/or their parents/carers, we also heard about poor communication and lack of integration across different services. In addition, Covid-19 both increased demand for mental health support and presented additional obstacles as services were changed due to lockdown, with 74% of young people who participated in our research saying they found using mental health services either difficult or very difficult during the pandemic.
We are calling for urgent improvements to FTB, particularly around the provision of patient-centred care, crisis support and communication. We are pleased that FTB has already responded with an action plan to address some of these issues, which we will be following up in six months to ensure that essential changes are being made for the benefit of children and young people in Birmingham.