Children's and adolescents' mental health and CAMHS - Health Committee Contents


1. Autumn 2013 saw reports both in the media and in Parliament of young people with mental health problems having to travel across the country to receive inpatient treatment, in some cases hundreds of miles from their homes, families and local communities.[2] In October 2013 the Chief Medical Officer also took children's health as the focus of her annual report, devoting a specific chapter to mental health.[3] The Committee announced its inquiry into Children's and Adolescents' Mental Health and CAMHS in February 2014; aware that problems between different parts of CAMHS services were likely to be interlinked, we did not confine the inquiry to inpatient (Tier 4) services, but launched the inquiry with terms of reference covering CAMHS services more broadly.[4]

2. The inquiry received 237 written submissions; the most the Committee has received for any inquiry it has held this Parliament. As well as professional groups, interest groups, charities and statutory bodies, we received evidence from individual service users and their parents. Clinicians and other professionals working in this area from across the NHS, voluntary and private sectors also sent submissions. The prevailing picture was of CAMHS commissioners and providers struggling with increasing demand and reducing resources. However, we also heard evidence of good and innovative practice within CAMHS services, and evidence from both CAMHS providers and commissioners expressed the strength of feeling and commitment to change within this sector. As well as CAMHS services, we asked for views on the quality of information about children's and adolescents' mental health; and the role of digital media, online culture and schools.

3. Over the course of five meetings, we took oral evidence from the Chief Medical Officer; YoungMinds; Youth Access and the Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition; Royal College of Psychiatrists; the British Psychological Society; the Royal College of GPs; the CYP-IAPT programme; Place2Be; Beatbullying; providers and commissioners of CAMHS services; NHS England; the Department of Health; and the Minister of State for Care and Support. Dr Peter Hindley, Sarah Brennan, and Professor Tanya Byron also attended an informal seminar with the Committee.

4. We also held an informal private meeting with young people with experience of using CAMHS services from across England.

5. We are extremely grateful to all those who contributed to this inquiry. We are particularly indebted to the young people who travelled in some cases long distances to meet us and who described their experiences, which had often been difficult ones, so frankly and articulately. The session added considerably to the Committee's understanding of CAMHS, and raised new and important issues that had not previously been brought to our attention. We are also grateful to the individual service users and parents of service users who submitted written evidence to the inquiry describing their personal experiences.

6. In July, shortly before our concluding evidence session with the Minister and NHS England, NHS England published a long-awaited review into Tier 4 inpatient CAMHS services, a review originally announced in October 2013. During that session, the Minister of State for Care and Support told us that there was "a long overdue need for a quite thorough review of CAMHS", and that this would be carried out by a joint NHS England and Department of Health taskforce.

7. There are serious and deeply ingrained problems with the commissioning and provision of Children's and adolescents' Mental Health Services. These run through the whole system from prevention and early intervention through to inpatient services for the most vulnerable young people. We welcome the announcement of the joint NHS England /Department of Health Children and Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce, as it endorses one of our central conclusions, that problems with CAMHS are broadly based and not simply confined to inpatient Tier 4 services. Many of the recommendations in this report are therefore directed towards this taskforce as it begins its work. In addition to this, we recommend that the taskforce takes full account of the wealth of information contained in the written submissions received by this inquiry, including, in particular, submissions from service users, from their parents and representatives, from individual clinicians working in CAMHS, from provider organisations and from commissioners. We plan to review the progress of the taskforce early in 2015.

2   'NHS investigates CAMHS beds shortfall as MPs warn of appalling care', Community Care, 23 Oct 2013  Back

3   Department of Health, Chief Medical Officer's annual report 2012: Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays (October 2013) Back

4   Health Committee, Terms of Reference - Children's and Adolescents' mental health and CAMHS, 14 February 2014 Back

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Prepared 5 November 2014