Children and young people in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire will get better access to mental health services after both regions were chosen as NHS trailblazer sites to pilot improvements to children’s mental health services.

Under the Government’s Children and Young Peoples Green Paper initiative, Oxfordshire has been awarded £5.4m in extra funding while Buckinghamshire will receive £2.47m over the next three years.

This funding will be used to pilot reducing wait times into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services CAMHS to four weeks by 2021.

In addition it will  also support Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to deliver new mental health practitioner (MHP) teams into primary and secondary schools in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

In Oxfordshire this will be in partnership with Response and Oxfordshire County Council. In Buckinghamshire this will be in partnership with Mind and Buckinghamshire County Council.

For Oxfordshire new practitioners will be trained via Reading University and funding will support two new pilot mental health support teams in the first phase.

Sarah Breton, head of Children’s Commissioning at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Oxfordshire County Council, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to fast track the work we have been doing with partners for the last year so that the CAMHS service will see more children and see them more quickly.

Donan Kelly, Service Director at Oxford Health, said: “This is great news for children and young people who will now have better and quicker access to our mental health services in Oxfordshire and for teachers and parents who will now be able to get advice and help at an earlier stage. We know that early intervention leads to better healthcare outcomes. Together these measures are something we’ve all been working towards to address this important and growing area of healthcare need.”

In Oxfordshire, training will begin in January 2019, and the expectation is that both the county’s teams will be operational by next Christmas. It is expected each team will support up to 8,000 children and young people and will be responsible for a cluster of around 20 schools and colleges each, depending on their size.

Nationally, one in nine young people aged five to 15 had a mental health condition in 2017 and teenagers with a mental disorder are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to have a mental disorder in adulthood.

The MHP teams will build on support already in place from school counsellors, nurses, educational psychologists and the voluntary sector to treat those with mild to moderate mental health issues in school and will help children and young people with more severe needs to access the right support and provide a link to specialist services.

In today’s government announcement, The Department for Education says it will also fund training for senior mental health leads in schools and colleges – working to ensure a ‘whole school’ approach to mental health and wellbeing – who will work closely with the MHS teams to ensure children and young people get the right help as soon as possible.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: “Children and young people with mental illness should receive the same level of support as those with physical illness. Made possible by the extra £20.5 billion we are investing in the NHS, today’s announcement will see the health and education systems come together so our children can access the help they need at school and takes us a step closer to achieving our goal of parity between mental and physical health.”

Minister for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention, Jackie Doyle-Price said: “Encouraging young people to think about their mental wellbeing in the same way they do their physical aches and pains is a vital part of our goal to put mental and physical health on equal footing and will help ensure no young person is left to suffer in silence.”