Warning over child mental health ‘crisis’
Experts’ fears over number of young people seeking NHS support
Friday, 5th November 2021 — By Tom Foot
The Gordon Hospital in Pimlico
THE number of children receiving help for a mental health breakdown has doubled since last year, health chiefs have warned.
An NHS report, due to be discussed by council chiefs next week, revealed there had been a “significant increase” of young people in “crisis” since lockdown restrictions eased.
The Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust is due to raise the issue in a meeting about the impact of a decision to close 55 acute mental health patient beds at the Gordon Hospital in Pimlico.
Their report said: “We have seen up to twice as many more attendances than at the same point last year. To meet this demand we have been putting in additional capacity into our crisis teams and they are now seeing double the amount of children than they were previously to meet this demand.”
The full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on young people is not yet fully understood, but the numbers of young people requiring support from the cash-strapped NHS is worrying experts.
Tom Madders, director of campaigns at Young Minds charity, said: “We know from parents who have been using our digital helpline services how hard life has been for many children over the last year. Some have struggled to cope with isolation, anxiety, fears about the future, bereavement, or traumatic experiences. And others are finding the return to school and previous routines really challenging.
“Children who are already experiencing inequalities are likely to continue to be disproportionately affected.
“Often it can be the little things we do in our day-to-day lives that can make a big difference to young people’s mental health to remind them that they’re not alone, whether that’s morning walks, watching a Netflix show together, or having a heart-to-heart with someone.”
The Gordon Hospital was closed during the first wave of the pandemic last year after NHS officials said it was not possible to follow social distancing restrictions and staff were better placed on the front line of the NHS.
It has remained closed and now health chiefs are consulting on a plan to permanently shutter the building.
During Covid, just under two-thirds of patients that would have been sent to the Gordon have been admitted to St Charles’ Hospital in north Kensington.
Around 10 per cent of patients are sent out of the boroughs covered by CNWL trust, mainly foreign nationals the report said, as they have “fewer connections” to the area.
The trust said it had been working with “commissioners and local partners to increase capacity across our Urgent Care Teams, which includes out-of-hours support, strengthened community and crisis support for children and young people (CYP) with eating disorders.
“On top of this, there was “additional capacity in our teams supporting discharge to transfer CYP from inpatients into community settings”.