• Pilot to cut waiting times for children with mental health conditions by 2021
  • 25 additional staff to support core Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service
  • Video conferencing consultation and online information for children and young people with low level symptoms of low mood, anxiety and stress, and their families
  • Mental health support teams in schools to support 16,000 Oxfordshire pupils with 16 new CAMHS staff
  • 69 per cent increase in referrals to Oxfordshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in four years

Oxfordshire’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is to take part in a pilot to cut waiting times for children by 2021.

In line with national trends, demand for CAMHS in the county has risen by 30 per cent in the last year thanks to reduced stigma against seeking mental ill health support, improved accessibility to services and the drive to ensure children who need mental health services are able to access them.

Now Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust is to recruit an additional 25 staff to Oxfordshire CAMHS to meet this increase in need as it takes part in an NHS England pilot to reduce waiting times to four weeks by 2021 for children and young people accessing core mental health services.

In a separate nine-month pilot, about 600 children and young people with low level symptoms of low mood, anxiety and stress referred to the Oxfordshire CAMHS Getting Help Service are to be offered the option to access a website with information and resources, plus consultation with clinicians via video conferencing. This Healios site means children, young people and families can access information at a place and time convenient to them and, like online GP consultations, attend appointments with mental health professionals out of hours, at a time convenient for them and without the need to travel. The Healios service is approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which provides national guidance to health care.

A similar approach, Technology-Assisted Psychiatry (TAP) created by Oxford Health’s emergency psychiatry department at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, won a Royal College of Psychiatry Award for its use of video conferencing to offer speedier, more convenient consultation to people who attend A&E at the Horton Hospital in Banbury, with 90 per cent of patients reporting their overall experience as excellent or good in the trial period.

The additional staff and Healios service are just two of the latest measures to enhance core, non-specialist CAMHS services that have come out of the Oxfordshire CAMHS Transformation Plan – the county’s blueprint for developing mental health services for children and young people locally. The transformation plan, drawn up by the trust and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, has been judged an “exemplar plan” for developing children’s services to meet the needs of local families by NHS England.

It comes after the Oxfordshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, made up of health and social care commissioners and providers in the county, successfully bid for £5.4m from NHS England to become a ‘trailblazer site’ to pilot improvements to children’s mental health care, including mental health support teams in schools and the pilot to reduce CAMHS waiting times to no more than four weeks by 2021. These mental health support teams will cover a total of 16,000 pupils with the help of 16 new CAMHS staff.

In Oxfordshire, 350 young people start treatment with Oxford Health each month, against a national NHS target of 300. Oxfordshire CAMHS meets targets for emergency cases seen within four hours, while urgent cases are seen within seven days and routine appointments within 16 weeks of referral. Some young people with specialist needs who may require multi-disciplinary care currently fall outside of these times. When families are referred to the service they receive a pack with information about how to stay in touch, how to highlight any concerns about a downturn in a young person’s health and self-help tools. The service also contacts children, young people and their families who have been waiting for 16 weeks to find out if there is any change to their previously assessed clinical need.

Donan Kelly, joint service director at the trust, said: “Nationally demand for child and adolescent mental health services is rising, and that is reflected in Oxfordshire where we’ve seen a 69 per cent increase in referrals in four years. We’re really pleased more families and young people are seeking help as mental health stigma has reduced. We are increasing the capacity of our core CAMHS services to meet this rising demand, with the aim patients and families will be seen more quickly and waiting times will reduce.

“An extra 25 staff within the service, plus additional clinical support for patients with low level symptoms of low mood, anxiety and stress via Healios means we help more children and young people at any one time, which is really exciting.

“The online service offers families greater access and choice for when, where and how they receive their assessment or interventions including video conferencing. Mental health care isn’t just about medication and counselling during an appointment at a hospital in office hours. It’s about offering children, young people and families a range of support, care and treatment at times that meet their needs, and that includes online, which is natural to our tech-savvy patients and their families.”

Anyone with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person in Oxfordshire can access Oxfordshire CAMHS via the Single Point of Access service on 01865 902515 (during normal working hours), via email OxonCAMHSSPA@oxfordhealth.nhs.uk or visit www.oxfordhealth.nhs.uk/camhs/oxon/ for detailed information about our services, including our online referral form.