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Investment in mental health hubs ‘must be one step of many’

Drop-in mental health services for children and young people are receiving additional government funding to ease the demand on the NHS.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced on Tuesday (27 February) that it will provide £3m to expand the number of early support hubs in England from 10 to 24.

“As demand continues to rise, this must be one step of many”

Stephen Jones

These hubs allow children and young people to receive mental health support such as counselling, psychological therapy, specialist advice, group work and signposting to other services.

They are accessible without a referral from a doctor or school and can also be used to help give advice and help on topics such as sexual health, exams, jobs, drugs, alcohol or financial worries.

The latest funding is in addition to a £4.92m investment announced in October, meaning almost £8m has been provided to be spread across the 24 hubs around the country.

The government said it hoped the money would help ease the pressure on overstretched NHS services.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) head of nursing practice and professional lead for mental health Stephen Jones welcomed the announcement but called on the government to go further.

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“The RCN has repeatedly pushed the government to invest in early mental health intervention and we’re pleased to see these calls recognised with additional funding for early support hubs. But as demand continues to rise, this must be one step of many,” he said.

“Across England’s NHS mental health services, there are over 13,000 unfilled nursing posts, accounting for nearly one in three of all nurse vacancies.

“Shortages like this have real-world consequences, leaving staff unable to meet the needs of all patients suffering a mental health crisis.”

Mr Jones said more funding like the £3m announcement this week should be put into place and warned ministers not to become “complacent”.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, similarly said: “Any extra support and early intervention is welcome but mental health must be more of a national priority, backed by adequate funding and support, to improve the quality of and access to services.

“Too many children and young people and their families face long waits for mental health and community health services vital for their wellbeing and development.”

Ms Cordery said mental health demand was at a “record high” and pointed to the long waiting lists which needed addressing.

“Trusts want people to have the best care possible [and] that requires more, long-term government support for mental health,” she said.

“For years mental health services have been starved of adequate capital investment vital to provide high-quality care in the right settings for the good of patients and staff.

“We need a more joined-up, cross-government approach with equal national focus on community and mental health services to support children and young people as early as possible.”

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Mental health minister Maria Caulfield said these funding boosts were part of the government’s “long term” plan to improve support.

“No child or young person should suffer alone, and this additional funding for 24 mental health hubs will improve access and bring in more staff and experts who can help those who need it the most,” she said.

“This will build on the brilliant work they already do, and supports our ongoing work to make sure every person has access the highest quality mental health services.”

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