CLOSE to 80,000 abused or neglected children across the North-East and Cumbria may not be receiving adequate mental health care from the NHS, it has been claimed.

Research from the children's charity NSPCC revealed that, despite improvements, four out of five NHS mental health plans in England did not do enough to address the needs of vulnerable children, which meant 77,469 children in the North-East and Cumbria could be sidelined by mental health services.

The charity analysed the latest annual mental health plans published by NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), and it found that 82 per cent were not properly planning for children's mental health.

While some progress had been made since 2015/16, the NSPCC warned that this could be undermined as responsibility for commissioning decisions moved from individual CCGs to new regional NHS partnerships which covered much larger geographical areas. 

In the charity’s analysis, each plan produced by CCGs across England was given a ‘traffic light’ rating for its understanding of the needs of vulnerable children. 

For 2018/19, 74 per cent were rated amber and two per cent red, while and 6 per cent did not publish an updated plan. Up from 14 per cent in 2015/16, 18 per cent of plans were rated green.

NSPCC head of policy, Almudena Lara, said: “Children who have lived through the trauma of abuse and neglect need all the support we can give them to help them recover.

“We know there are fantastic mental health services supporting lots of these children up and down the country.  But it’s not enough, and a system that’s already struggling to properly plan for their mental health needs will render them all but invisible if action isn’t taken now by NHS England. 

“Millions more children could be affected unless the NHS ensures that vulnerable young people are explicitly recognised in the new commissioning arrangements.”

The NSPCC was now calling for:

  • A commitment from NHS England to put the needs of vulnerable children at the heart of its implementation of the NHS ‘Long Term Plan’;
  • Greater accountability and oversight from NHS England, with more transparency from commissioners on how mental health services for children are funded and planned;
  • Decisions about what mental health services to provide around the country for children to be rooted in a detailed assessment of local needs, which includes specific reference to vulnerable children.