Thousands of Northamptonshire’s abused children let down by lack of NHS mental health plans

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More than 21,000 children in Northamptonshire who have been abused or neglected are not covered by adequate NHS plans for their mental health needs, new NSPCC research estimates.

The charity analysed the latest annual plans published by NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) which set out how they will care for children’s mental health and found that, across England, 88 per cent were failing to properly plan for the needs of vulnerable children including those who had been abused.

All 195 CCGs in England were given a traffic light rating by the NSPCC and for 2017/18, 146 were rated amber and 21 were rated red.

This means that an estimated 1.3 million abused children in England are living in an area with inadequate plans for their mental health needs, or with no plans for their care whatsoever.

Northamptonshire’s two CCGs both received a red rating which means action is needed to improve the plan for the county’s estimated 21,866 children who have been abused or neglected. Of those 21,866 children, 2,193 reported to Corby CCG and 19,673 reported to Nene CCG.

But the county's two CCGs say the NSPCC's analysis was based on data from 2015, and that an updated 2018 dataset was available to the charity for their research.

A spokesperson on behalf of NHS Nene CCG and NHS Corby CCG said: “It’s important that local people understand that the NSPCC are commenting upon a report that was drawn up in 2015.

"Since that time, we have already recognised many of the criticisms made in relation to the plan and undertaken work to correct these.

"During the last year the CCGs have been working with Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and other partners to revise and develop a plan that addresses many of the highlighted concerns, as well as setting out how we intend to improve access to mental health support services and address issues around developing the local workforce responsible for supporting children and young people.

"This new plan was shared with the NSPCC during development and has since been published, so it is both disappointing and surprising that the published conclusions, which may raise real concerns for vulnerable service users and their families, relate to a plan the NSPCC is aware is out of date.

"It is worth noting that as a direct result of some of these changes, the CCGs have recently been invited to apply to become a Children and Young People Mental Health Green Paper national ‘Trailblazer’.

"This invitation is made to selected CCGs who are able to demonstrate they delivered the nationally mandated “Mental Health Investment Standard” in 2017-18 and where 20% or higher of children and young people in their area are able to access mental health care. The CCGs intend to accept the invitation to apply to be a ‘Trailblazer’.”

The NSPCC is calling on all NHS CCGs to urgently recognise and plan for the increased mental health needs of children who have been abused.

Research shows that adults who have suffered abuse in childhood are twice as likely to develop clinical depression. Early support is key to minimising the long-term impact of mental health issues.

In 2016/17, one in three Childline counselling sessions related to mental and emotional health and wellbeing issues. In 36 per cent of Childline counselling sessions where abuse was the main concern, the young person also discussed their mental and emotional health, suicidal feelings or self-harm.

Almudena Lara, NSPCC’s head of policy and public affairs, said: “We recognise the hard work of NHS staff providing much-needed mental health services to young people. These ratings are not a reflection on those services and the staff working to deliver them.

“But our analysis shows that there are CCGs across England that are still not properly planning for the mental health needs of abused children and young people. It is crucial these children are supported to get back on track and lead healthy lives.

“In future, we want to see more CCGs not only recognise the needs of these children, but go further and ensure services are there to support them.”

NHS England has stipulated that CCGs must update their plans annually and the NSPCC is calling on all CCGs to develop clearer strategies to meet the mental health needs of children who have been abused in their 2018/19 updated plans and all future plans.