Did you know that 2 out of 3 young people with a diagnosable mental illness in the UK do not access support? That was the shocking finding of the Future In Mind Review by the Department of Health in 2015.
As shocking as this statistic is, it only tells part of the story. Before reaching the stage of having a diagnosable mental illness, most children and young people will have shown early signs of distress – perhaps in worsening social relationships, declining educational attainment, or worrying changes in their behaviour. For most children and young people, there are opportunities for statutory services to identify this and respond; and when they do, our statutory services offer help that is hugely valued – but alas, still too few are accessing that support.
Future In Mind Review was a call to action for commissioners. Funding was made available to local NHS CCGs to help transform local services. The life of a young person involves many different services that are provided by completely separate organisations – such as GPs, children’s centres, health visitors, schools, and charities – some of which are commissioned by CCGs and some by local authorities.
What parents and young people really care about is getting the right help at the right time, and ensuring there is no stigma attached to that support. What professionals really care about is delivering services in a way that is stigma-free, timely and effective as well as value for public money – measured by meaningful and sustainable outcomes and a positive experience. To deliver this system, health and care services have to be integrated and joined up and work closely with children and young people and their families and carers.
The challenge is to work out how we redesign the system so it is joined up and accessible. Every borough has a Health and Wellbeing Board bringing together local authorities, NHS commissioners and HealthWatch to formally and publicly agree local plans. But beyond this, real transformation relies on effective relationships between these groups and their service users and communities. Brent is lucky to have an extremely effective working partnership between Brent Council and NHS Brent CCG; our joint commissioning work is coordinated through Brent Children’s Trust; and our Council and CCG officers liaise with each other on a regular basis.
If we are honest, local authorities and clinical commissioning groups nationally have varying relationships; however, in Brent, relationship between Brent Council, NHS Brent CCG and wider health services is a good one because of a strong belief that nothing is more important than the wellbeing of young people. Good collaborative and co-operative relationships at so many levels have allowed us to transform the way our services work. Our commissioned providers, GPs and schools will be able to get specialist mental health advice and access to support as soon as they see the early signs of a young person’s distress. This approach can improve the lives of young people today, giving them long-term benefits.