• Harm assessments are taking place after 160 children and young people waited more than a year for treatment
  • North East London Foundation Trust services in Kent also have nearly 1,500 CAMHs patients waiting more than 18 weeks
  • Trust took over service in September

Clinical harm reviews are being carried out to see if 160 children came to harm after waiting more than a year for mental health treatment, HSJ can reveal.

North East London Foundation Trust has a waiting list of nearly 1,500 children and adolescents waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment by its Kent service – and does not know when this will be cleared. Among them are 144 who have waited more than a year in Kent. Another 19 young people from Medway, where NELFT also provides services, have also waited longer than a year.

NELFT took over children and young people’s specialist and targeted mental health services in Kent last September. But with rising demand, the impact of introducing a new service model, and an inherited waiting list, it has struggled to treat and assess young people swiftly.

Board papers for May reveal that in Kent, 3,869 young people were waiting for treatment, with 144 waiting more than a year.

In addition, 1,100 were waiting for assessment. Smaller numbers of children in Medway, which has a separate contract for CAMHs with NELFT, were also waiting for assessment and treatment – including 19 who had waited more than a year. The board papers say “a clinical harm review process [is] in place”.

The seven CCGs in Kent say 1,481 children and young people have currently been waiting for more than 18 weeks for treatment to start.

Around £900,000 in “Future in Mind” transformation funding – part of the government’s commitment in 2015 to put more money into CAMHs services - has now been earmarked to reduce waits.

Patricia Davies, senior responsible officer for mental health, children’s and learning disability services for the Kent and Medway CCGs, said: “NELFT has submitted a proposal which outlines increased staffing and use of digital innovations and technology to support as many children as possible.

“NELFT is working on a waiting list trajectory to articulate when the waiting list will be cleared. Many factors will be taken into considerable when doing this, including staffing levels, recruitment, and continuing to assess clinical need and see new urgent referrals into the system.”

NELFT inherited services which had been delivered by a number of providers, although the core CAMHs service was contracted to Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust. It took until the end of April for NELFT to review information held on each patient on the inherited waiting lists, and to look at their clinical need and risk. Families of each child on the waiting list have been contacted to advise on next steps, according to the CCGs.

Ms Davies said: “We deeply regret that some children and young people have been waiting much too long for their assessment or treatment, and we appreciate the distress this can cause.”

However, she added that NELFT was expecting around 14,500 referrals in Kent alone its first 12 months, compared with 10,500 in the last year of the previous providers and was doing “a through and rigorous job” of reviewing waiting times.

NELFT board papers reveal it is receiving a high number of complaints from Kent residents, and regards waiting lists in Kent as a “high risk”. It would not answer questions from HSJ about the waiting lists and harm reviews.

HSJ reported in March that up to 800 children in East Kent were waiting for assessment and treatment for ADHD/autism spectrum disorders, with some waiting up to two years.