Children in North Yorkshire face two-year wait for mental disorder assessment
Last updated Mar 13, 2023
young child going to school

Local children face waits of up to two years after being referred by a doctor for autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) assessments, a meeting has heard.

North Yorkshire’s scrutiny of health committee heard there were 377 children currently waiting for an autism spectrum disorder assessment, of which 27 had been waiting more than 12 months.

Councillors were told a further 400 children had been waiting for a ADHD assessment, 76 of which have been waiting for more than a year.

The figures from Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust follow it revealing three months ago that the number of children in contact with its Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in York had jumped by more than 40 per cent over the previous two years.

A Healthwatch report into the service showed young people are facing delays, lost paperwork and other issues when trying to get support.

Brian Cranna, care group director at the health trust, told the scrutiny committee meeting at County Hall in Northallerton the last 12 months had seen 9,000 referrals into CAMHS across North Yorkshire and York.

Read more:

He said while 5,000 children were active referrals or currently receiving interventions, the service was facing challenges over assessing developmental disorders.

Mr Canna said the length of wait depended on which part of North Yorkshire a child lived in, adding It could be up to two years for an assessment.

Community mental health teams

The meeting heard the trust had created mental health teams working in schools to prevent the need to access specialist services, and referrals to them were being seen within four weeks.

He added while people could expect to be seen by community mental health teams within eight weeks of routine referral, the majority of children and young people were being seen within 28 days.

Mr Canna underlined 86% of children referred to the crisis team were being seen within four hours.

However, the meeting heard the delays were being exacerbated by a struggle to recruit staff, ranging from consultant psychiatrists and psychologists to administrative staff.

He said raised public expectations of the service had increased the pressure on staff.

He added: 

“People expect a better level of care. They expect a level of support that’s tailored to their individual needs and that increases the demand on the services.”

Mr Canna said staffing pressures varied across the county. 

He said Harrogate had a range of healthcare providers who people living there could work for instead, while it had proved difficult to attract people to move to Scarborough.

Nevertheless, he said the trust was examining what it could do to attract people into the area and following some success recruiting staff for its eating disorders team the trust was hopeful that “this positive trajectory” would continue.

He said: 

“Maintaining staff wellbeing in a pressured environment is a significant challenge for us and a challenge we are responding to.”