Leeds health bosses vow to improve support for thousands of youths with mental health issues

The Leeds skyline.
The Leeds skyline.
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New plans to cut waiting times and improve support for young people in Leeds troubled by mental health problems have been given the green light.

The proposals, agreed between the NHS in Leeds and Leeds City Council following a six-month review, come after it was revealed that referrals for those aged 17 plus who are self-harming have increased by 184 per cent since 2012.

Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust also found that the average wait for young people to be assessed for autistic disorders hit 20.5 weeks in December – well above the national 12-week target.

A series of 11 recommendations have been set out following input from a range of bodies, including young people, in a bid to improve services through better links between the NHS, local authorities, charities, schools and services.

Dr Jane Mischenko, Leeds’ NHS commissioning lead for children’s and maternity services, said: “The approval of our recommendations marks an important step. Access to emotional and mental health support will be simpler, easier and earlier for children and young people in the city – something that they have repeatedly told us they need.”

As part of the revamp of children and young people’s mental health services, Leeds’ three NHS clinical commissioning groups will invest around £360,000 in 2015/16 to tackle autism assessment waiting times. Key recommendations include the need to support more local and accessible services, and for partners to work together to commission services.

It is thought that 16,800 youths in the city are experiencing mental health problems.

Coun Debra Coupar, chair of Leeds City Council’s scrutiny board for health, said ongoing work on mental health in young people will help inform decisions to “add real value and better services for children”.

Coun Lisa Mulherin, chair of Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, added: “This is a positive investment for improving lives today and for years to come.”