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GPs suggesting patients go private as thousands of young people rejected by mental health services

Tighter restrictions on access to mental health services mean that thousands of young patients are being denied care, leading to a large rise in the numbers turning up in A&E, pressures that are described in a string of new crisis reports.

One effect of the high number of referral rejections and the delays to getting help is the number of GPs now advising parents to seek private care for their children. In a survey by the mental health charity Stem4, 43% of UK family doctors said they told parents whose children were struggling with anxiety, depression, self-harm or eating disorders to seek treatment privately.

Many of the GPs that took part in the survey for Stem4, were highly critical of CAMHS, describing services as “dire”, “extremely lacking”, “non-existent” and “totally, horrifically, grossly inadequate”. In this 2019 survey 90% of GPs described CAMHS in their area as ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ inadequate, in 2016 this figure was 77%.

Driving those patients that can afford it towards private care signals the path to a two tier system, with children from poorer families being denied care or having to wait longer, potentially with worse and sometimes tragic outcomes.

Dr Nihara Krause, a consultant clinical psychologist and founder of Stem4: noted that “Parents whose child has cancer or a serious physical health condition would never have to pay for private care, so why should it be OK for those whose children have mental health problems to be told to do that? This again shows that the much-vaunted ‘parity of esteem’ between physical and mental health services is still a far-off goal.”

Full story on The Lowdown, 16 January 2020.

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