Pledges have been made to improve mental health services for children in an open letter to the city’s young people.
Health bosses have set out planned changes to the support on offer to vulnerable young people as part of a programme of improvements launched in 2015.
Since NHS, council and voluntary sector organisations set up the city’s Local Transformation Plan (LTP), the average wait for a first appointment with Child and Adolescent Mental health Services (CAMHS) has fallen from 15 weeks to around nine weeks.
The average wait for an autism assessment fell from 28 weeks to 11 weeks in the same period, latest figures show.
New services for youngsters include the MindMate mental health website, developed with the involvement of young people, and the crisis helpline Teen Connect.The open letter said mental health staff had teamed up with schools after young people were asked what needed to be improved. It said: “You wanted teachers to be supported to feel comfortable responding to mental health needs and for support and mental health services to be delivered locally and not have long waiting times.”
Local areas are required to update their LTPs each year. The open letter has been published as the latest version of the Leeds plan is being drawn up. The letter said: “This coming year we will be working to create places in the city for you to go to if you feel you are having a crisis and need somewhere safe and supportive to be.
“We are also working with colleagues in West Yorkshire to make sure we have a dedicated mental health crisis team for you that does not have to see you in a clinic or hospital but will go to wherever you are.”
LTPs were drawn up following the Government’s Future in Mind report of 2015, which set out what improvements were expected over five years. New services for Leeds include a £13m mental health unit at the St Mary’s Hospital site in Armley to provide more beds closer to home.
Dr Jane Mischenko, Lead Commissioner for Children and Maternity at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “In Leeds we want to be a city where talking about feelings and emotions is the norm, and where it’s acceptable to acknowledge difficulties.
“Our Future in Mind: Leeds Local Transformation Plan sets out how we are working as partners across the city to deliver this. Each year we review our plan to identify our achievements and to identify our key next steps.
“We are opening this year’s plan with an open letter to the children and young people of Leeds, setting out how we are responding to what they have told us needs to change.”
A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE OF SERVICES
In 2015 the Government launched its landmark Future in Mind report to set out the improvements it wanted to see by 2020.
Priorities included tackling stigma and improving attitudes towards mental health, more access and reduced waiting times and improved services for the most vulnerable young people. The report called for closer working between the NHS, social care organisations, the charity sector and schools. It followed the formation of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce.