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'Frightening' truth of Hillingdon's youth mental health services

One parent is desperate for her daughter to get help: "You wouldn’t treat a child that was sick with cancer in the same way”

The desperate plight of children, families and professionals facing struggles with mental health services in Hillingdon have been revealed by a local health watchdog.

Healthwatch Hillingdon's report Seen & Heard – Why not now? has outlined how uncertain funding, a lack of early intervention, and fragmented services were compounding issues, and called for a joint approach from all stakeholders to improve services.

The experiences included in the report came directly from people affected by mental health and those who claim to have been let down by local services.

Sally, who lives and works in Hillingdon, told of how her daughter waited 10 months to get an appointment with a CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Care) specialist, after being bullied at school.

She said: "I would call CAMHS every week but they would only say she’s on the waiting list. What I needed was tips and advice while we were waiting, something to hang-on to, but nothing was forthcoming."

After the wait, Sally's daughter saw a trainee for four to six sessions, but carried on self-harming, not eating, taking medication and now receives home tuition as she's too ill to go to school.

“As a family we don’t know what we’re doing from one day to the next," she said. "It’s really frightening.

"My daughter is in a living hell, but what does it take for her to get the treatment she needs to get better? You wouldn’t treat a child that was sick with cancer in the same way.”

Seen & Heard – Why not now? gives further insight into the borough's services after Healthwatch Hillingdon's first report, Listen to me!, became a catalyst for change.

'We are sorry'

Healthwatch CEO Graham Hawkes said: “It has been recognised that improvement is needed and it's only by talking to children and their families that we can really understand the services that are needed in our communities.

“Through real-life experiences, our new report looks into the far-reaching effect mental illness has on local children. It highlights how this impacts on all aspects of their life and the ways in which they were supported and cared for.

“Using this insight, Healthwatch Hillingdon will be looking to influence how future care and support are provided in Hillingdon and will continue to ensure that the views and experiences of children and young people are heard, loud and clear.”

It is estimated that around 1,500 11 to 16-year-olds have either self-harmed or attempted suicide in Hillingdon and, by 2021, nearly 5,000 children in the borough will have a mental health disorder.

Healthcare professionals who spoke to Healthwatch Hillingdon said: “We can't carry on in a situation where A&E is the only pathway.”

Another said: “We're having to discharge young people who self-harm from A&E without community-based resources to refer them to.”

The NHS Foundation Trust responsible for mental health services in Hillingdon borough has apologised for a second time in as many months.

A spokesman for The Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) said: “Many of the stories featured express understandable frustration, especially about waiting times but also about some experiences that were not what they should be and we are sorry about that.

“Our treatment waiting list, which reached over 100 waiting for 12 months, has now reduced to an average of seven months. However, demand is growing with an increase in the most serious cases and deliberate self harm presentations to A&E.

“We continue to work with commissioners and other stakeholders on immediate improvements and on the strategic developments required for Hillingdon, which has a growing younger population.”

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