Support for mental health in Teesside schools amid ‘tsunami’ demand

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Mental health support in schools will help tackle a ‘tsunami’ of children in need of help, an NHS Trust Meeting has heard.

The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys (TEWV) Joint Review Committee has been told of a “fundamental system change” that has been needed for years in children’s mental health services.

They were discussing changes and improvements made following recent critical reports from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulator.

Cathy Byard, Specialist Clinical Manager for CAMHS (Child and Youth Mental Health Services), spoke about the School Mental Health Support Teams Pilot, a 12-month training program where clinicians and services work with schools to support children where they are most seen on a regular basis.

She told the meeting organized by Darlington Borough Council at Roseberry Park Hospital in Middlesbrough: “It’s a real boost and a real driver.

“It’s something I’ve been talking about for years. It’s a brilliant addition to what we offer.

“It’s a fundamental change to the system. It’s brilliant. It’s what we’ve needed for CAMHS for years.

Read more: Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust told to ‘urgently improve’ by watchdog

“We just have to keep selling the message, building relationships. We have to keep saying we’re working with you. We’re starting to bring in young people who are starting to articulate that message.

“So it will happen. I am absolutely determined that it will happen, but it might take a little while.

“I think…we’re starting to get the results, it’s going to give him the traction he needs.”

He said they were aiming for ‘50% coverage on Teesside’ next year.

Speaking of other changes, she added, “We want the system to be more flexible and responsive.

“We’re really starting to think about piloting an integrated approach to see if it makes a difference, and we’re going to share the learning.

“(We) really want children, young people and families to benefit from this flexible access to services. And we are starting to see a real reduction in the number of cases.”

James Gray, chief executive of Tees Valley CAMHS, spoke of two-year waiting lists for specialist autism assessments.

He said: “References to this pathway increased by more than 300% before and after the pandemic.

“So it’s just completely off the scale.”

Read more: TEWV – Trust chief faces harsh tales of ‘abandoned’ staff and patients

He said they wanted to transform the system with a long-term plan to improve the mental health and emotional well-being of young people.

He said he aimed to help people with different needs by using various methods to stop “bottlenecks”, relieve demand and support people with complex needs.

He added: “Teesside are quite advanced with that. We’re really starting to see some good improvements with that, especially at Teesside.”

Jennifer Illingworth, director of operations and transformation for CAMHS and learning disabilities services, said she has seen an increase in demand, particularly for lower-level needs.

She said: “We’re trying to forge those connections with other people who can deliver that much faster and more efficiently than us.

“It’s been on more people’s radars. More people are being referred.

“We’ve had a small tsunami in the ward, which means there are probably children on the waiting lists with higher needs who aren’t being seen as quickly as they should be because of all the people with lower level needs.

“It’s not that they don’t need help because they absolutely do. It’s just that they’re going to the right place at the right time.

“You’re doing very well on Teesside. You’re pretty far ahead.”

She explained how they had stepped up staff training, kept in touch with children on waiting lists and worked to eliminate workloads.

She said recruiting was “always a problem” for inpatient services, but “we’re trying really hard and trying creative ways to do it”, and a survey found that 86% of staff who responded thought that the service was going in the right direction.

She said: “It’s not going to be a magic bullet. But actually they can see where we’re going and why we need to get there and how we’re going to do it together and make the staff feel like they’re part of the plan. ”

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