• One patient had to be seen immediately as found to be at “severe” risk of harm
  • Nearly 800 patients in Kent and Medway waited more than 18 weeks for appointment from NELFT
  • Mental health provider said none of the patients put at risk had come to “actual harm”

More than 70 children and young people have been put at risk by long delays in treatment by mental health services in Kent and Medway, HSJ has learned.

According to a response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by HSJ, 205 harm reviews have been carried out for patients waiting for treatment following a referral to the North East London Foundation Trust, which runs the child and adolescent mental health services in Kent and Medway.

Of those, 76 patients, who had all waited longer than the 18 week target time for treatment, were found to be at risk of harm. One patient had to be seen immediately as they were judged to be at “severe” risk. Seven were found to be at “moderate” risk and 68 at “low” risk. 

The trust said “risk” meant a risk of harm to themselves or others. But it said none of the 76 patients had come to actual harm. 

NELFT said 793 children and young people in Kent and Medway had waited more than 18 weeks between assessment and treatment between April 2018 and December 2019. The trust, which started its contract in Kent in September 2017, is carrying out harm reviews on all patients who have waited 18 weeks or longer. 

The trust said patients who wait more than 18 weeks for appointments are contacted by an experienced mental health practitioner to review clinical risk, and it then prioritises cases where risk is identified. 

Of the 1,800 patients NELFT currently has waiting for CAMHS in Kent and Medway — which includes some who are yet to be assessed and may not need treatment — 444 have been waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment. HSJ understands NELFT is unlikely to meet the 18 week target until October this year. 

A NELFT spokeswoman said: “We conduct clinical harm reviews for patients waiting for treatment from our children and adolescents’ mental health service, and priority is given to those who have waited longest. We ask patients and their families or carers to tell us of any changes or developments to the child’s condition so we can retriage them and reassess the care they need, as appropriate.

“When the clinical risk and urgency are deemed as high, the child or young person is referred to our crisis team who will assess them within four hours.”

A Kent and Medway CCGs’ statement said: “Patient safety is a priority for us and we would like to provide reassurance that there have been no cases where a child or young person has come to harm as a result of a prolonged wait for their appointment. However, we acknowledge that the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment has been a matter of concern and we are working closely with colleagues at NELFT to address this.

“Progress has been made on the waiting times for treatment and, along with NELFT, we are working with and listening to families across Kent and Medway to make further improvements. The families are supporting the redesign of the diagnosis process for the future, which includes children and young people being able to access the right support while they wait for a diagnosis.”


The Patient Safety Congress

The Patient Safety Congress, taking place on 13-14 July 2020, brings together more than 1,000 people with the shared aim of transforming patient safety. It draws together contributions from patient speakers, safety experts from healthcare and other safety critcal industries, and frontline innovators, to challenge and drive forward on patient safety. You will be part of influential conversations with those responsible for driving the new national strategy on patient safety and take away real solutions that you can adopt to improve outcomes where you work.