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. 

By Healthwatch Birmingham
Investigations 2021

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.

Access to mental health services for children and young people in Birmingham: what needs to change Download File (pdf 4.94 MB)

When people seek help for mental health issues, speed and sensitivity of response are vital. However, when young people or their families ask for help, it not only takes far too long to be seen but the experience is often confusing and isolating too.  Forward Thinking Birmingham must tackle the serious issues that children and young people have told us about with a clear and measurable action plan. However, we recognise that mental health services are over-stretched across the country. The pandemic has added to those pressures but they did not start with Covid. The Government must urgently provide mental health services with the funding they need to offer the person-focused support that children and young people deserve. Richard Burden, Chair of Healthwatch Birmingham.