Four in 10 GPs are suggesting parents of children with mental health problems pay for private care, a survey has revealed.

Some 43% of family doctors in the UK said they told families to look for private treatment if they could afford it as NHS services are too overwhelmed to help, the Guardian has reported.

GPs criticised the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for not being available to see young people they referred for care, for issues such as anxiety, depression or self-harm.

They said there were delays of up to 18 months, according to the survey of 994 GPs carried out by mental health charity Stem4.

Worrying findings

Matt Smith-Lilley, our Policy and Engagement Lead (Mental Health) said:

“These are worrying findings. It’s vital all children and young people have timely access to the mental health support they need.  Young people shouldn’t be let down like this.

Time for action

“NHS services are already over-stretched. Unless there is a significant increase in investment this situation will only worsen as demand continues to rise.  There’ve been enough promises – now it’s time for action that makes a major difference.

“We also need to stop looking at CAMHS as the only pathway for young people who are struggling. Counselling in schools has been shown to be a highly effective support for children and young people who are experiencing emotional difficulties and can help reduce pressure on CAMHS services.”

The survey also found that:

  • 73% of GPs think NHS children and young people’s mental health services have got worse over the past year.
  • 54% of children and young people aged 11 to 18 are rejected for treatment by CAMHS, even though GPs only refer those in greatest need.
  • Those who are accepted face long waits for care of between three and six months (27%) and up to 12 months (28%).

If you're looking for a counsellor or psychotherapist for yourself or a member of your family, you can find one of our registered members through our Directory.