Healthwatch Essex report underpins new plan to improve mental health for children and young people

Essex, Southend and Thurrock today launched a £3.3 million plan to improve mental health for children and young people. The findings of the Healthwatch Essex YEAH! report, in which we engaged over 400 young people, underpin the proposed service overhaul.

Some of the relevant findings from the Healthwatch Essex YEAH! report were:

  • 8 in 10 young people had received no mental health information, and did not know how to get mental health support
  • 9 in 10 wanted to learn about mental health
  • Many young people would like compulsory education about mental health, and felt that education and awareness would help reduce the stigma and isolation around mental health conditions
  • Young people who had had experience of the mental health service said it was hard to get referred for treatment, that waiting times were too long, and that sometimes follow-up appointments didn’t materialise
  • Participants often felt that GPs did not understand mental health issues in young people, or treat them seriously, which can discourage them from seeking the help they need.

The “Open Up, Reach Out” plan sets out how mental health services for children and young people in Essex will be change over the next five years. Some of the planned improvements include:

Nearly £1m per year extra to expand services for eating disorders

Enhanced crisis services working 9am-9pm, 7 days a week

An increase in staff providing single points of access in each local authority area – Essex, Southend and Thurrock – making it easier for young people, families and professionals to get the support they need

Special training and support for schools and other places that help children and young people.

The plan has been built around feedback from what young people say, including those who took part in the Healthwatch Essex YEAH! report. In a recent assessment by NHS England, the “Open Up, Reach Out” plan was rated the highest in the Midlands and East region.

Dr Tom Nutt, CEO Healthwatch Essex, said: “We’re delighted to see the impact that our YEAH! Report has had. The planned redesign of young people’s mental health services is much needed and was a major issue to be highlighted by the young people we listened to. The “Open Up, Reach Out” plan is a huge and welcome overhaul of a vital service for young people.”

Hannah Fletcher, Healthwatch Essex Project Officer and author of the YEAH! Report, said: “It’s great to see that the voice of the young people we engaged with last summer has been heard by decision-makers and is really making a difference. The young people we spoke to said they wanted to have a greater awareness of mental health conditions and the support services available, and it’s especially encouraging to see the plan addressing this. We’re currently working on a follow-up report – YEAH!2 – which has a strong focus on mental health and will be published next year.”

Clare Morris, former Chief Officer of NHS West Essex CCG and lead commissioner for children’s mental health, said: “We are one of a very few areas in the country to combine our funds and create a countywide emotional wellbeing and mental health service for children and young people. With a single service and pooled resources, we can achieve bigger and better things with early intervention and building resilience. As well as an increase in services, we are building a cultural revolution that makes mental health everybody’s business.”

The “Open Up, Reach Out” plan has been produced by a partnership of the ten authorities that cover the county of Essex. These are the seven Essex Clinical Commissioning Groups, Essex County Council, Southend-on-sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council.

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For more information on the work of Healthwatch Essex visit www.healthwatchessex.org.uk and check out the Lived Experience training course.

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