Children travel miles for mental health help

By Joe Curtis

Daily Echo

Some children in private provision have been sent as far as Northampton.

  However youngsters deemed most at risk have been sent to Swanwick Lodge Secure Children’s Home near Southampton.

  The information was revealed in a report to the county council’s health scrutiny committee.

  Steve Crocker, deputy director of children and families at the county council, said: “We seek access for very, very complex children at high risk of suicide or harm to others but we are currently being told there are no beds available for these children by the local Wessex team.

  “This is a national problem but it is acute and increasingly we are having to find inventive ways of trying to contain very depressed or damaged children which is a concern. For example last week I moved a young girl to Swanwick Lodge and we have had to add extra staff because she is intent on killing herself.”

  Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust took over provision of the £10m children and adolescent mental health service contract in 2011.

  Ruth Hillman, deputy service director at the trust, which compiled the report, said: “We have a couple of young people who have particular difficulty with extreme self-harming and the unit best adept at managing that is in Northampton. If we cannot use Leigh House in Winchester for eating disorders we will use a nationally recognised centre.


  We have access to a wide range of facilities and we do use Chalkhill in West Sussex, although we have not used it for some time as we have not needed to.”

  She added that the average number of children in private provision at one time was only five.

  Councillors raised concerns over the sustainability of the service.

  Cllr Frank Rutt said: “I’m quite concerned at this report. This is a very important service but it is often treated like Cinderella with a lack of resources.

  It’s the development of our young people and if they are not treated with the right resources it will get more difficult down the line.”

  Councillors agreed to take concerns to the NHS, particularly about the children most at risk.

  But the meeting heard more work was being done to catch autism in very young children to prevent it becoming a serious problem in later life.

  Waiting times for assessment have fallen from around 26 weeks to six while treatment targets are also being met.