In response, Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:
Today’s proposals to speed up access to mental health services have the potential to make a big difference to children and young people experiencing mental health problems. Being able to access appropriate help earlier, either after faster assessment in A&E departments, or via quicker referrals in the community, will help to stop problems escalating while children and young people wait for long periods – often many months – to reach the top of the waiting list and start treatment. We are pleased to see these proposals and look forward to seeing the outcomes from the 12 pilot sites.
We cautiously welcome the commitment by NHS England to review the current standards for care in emergency departments. We know that A&E teams are under considerable pressures, and a robust flow measure helps to ensure that children and young people are seen and assessed in an appropriate and timely manner. The current four hour target is by no means perfect, and doesn’t always allow sufficient time for thorough clinical assessment of sick children and young people, but we would be concerned to see it replaced without an enhanced and evaluated alternative already in place.