The Guardian article 'Sharp rise in under-19s being treated by NHS mental health services' by Denis Campbell - which is based on the latest statistics published by NHS Digital - reports that: “The number seeking help for conditions such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders is rising sharply. Almost 50,000 children and young people a month are being referred, mainly by their GP, for mental health treatment.” 

He adds: “There were a total of 389,727 'active referrals' for people aged 18 or younger in April, a third higher than the same month two years ago.”

The 389,727 includes those who had ongoing contact with NHS services in April, including those who were being treated, those who had been treated but not been discharged, and those waiting to start treatment.

While these figures in themselves are highly concerning, even more worrying is the revelation that from NHS England that: “only one in four people under 18 with a diagnosable mental health problem receives treatment, with the others deemed not to need help after undergoing triage.”

These numbers are even higher than those revealed in September 2017, when the Education Policy Institute (EPI) report Access and waiting times in children and young people’s mental health services showed that over a quarter of children referred to specialist mental health services were not accepted into those services.

The main reason for the rejection of referrals was that the young people did not meet the eligibility criteria for specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). with the authors conceding that "little progress has been made in reducing the high proportion of young people who are not accepted into specialist services despite having been referred by a concerned GP or teacher".

Our response highlighted the worrying figures and suggested alternative support be put into place for these young people.

At the time we urged the Government to use the Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision green paper “to ensure children and young people have access to the appropriate treatment, in the right place, at the right time”. We said: “CAMHS is, of course, part of the solution for children and young people in severe distress. However, the Government must think about the ‘right support’, for all levels of mental health need, whether that be CAMHS, online interventions, or school-based counselling.”

School-based counselling works well as a parallel support alongside CAMHS and can reduce referrals to these specialist and costly services. It is cost effective too - five sessions of school-based counselling can be provided for the cost of one CAHMS session.

Dr Andrew Reeves, Chair of BACP says: "These figures are further evidence that children and young people are unable to access CAMHS services because they are failing to meet the thresholds of these specialist services, which is why universal provision of school counselling is so important.

"With so many children unable to get psychological and emotional support now, the Government's decision to put forward proposals to invest in new systems and a new workforce, while ignoring the existing qualified counsellors, looks increasingly ill-thought out with each passing week.

"A counselling workforce is already there, trained and willing to immediately start helping young people get the support they need. The Government still has time to rethink its proposals. We will urge the new Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock to look again and invest in counselling in schools."

Read the Guardian article.