Parents and young people in Stone are being canvassed for their opinion in a review of mental health services in Staffordshire.
It’s estimated that more than 10,000 youngsters in the county are suffering from some sort of mental or behavioural disorder.
And consumer champions Healthwatch Staffordshire believe many more are failing to seek help. The watchdog, based at the Technology Park in Stafford, has made mental health one of its top priorities this year and is calling on young people and parents of children with issues to share their experiences.
Feedback, which can be left anonymously, will be passed on to health and care providers to help shape how local services are delivered in future. It could also be used at nationwide level following a review by a government taskforce which was critical of how mental health services for children are run.
The results of the review, revealed last month, found the lines of responsibility for services are often blurred between councils and the NHS. It said a rising number of referrals, accompanied by a squeeze on budgets, has led to increasing delays for treatment.
And it prompted Care Minister Norman Lamb to call for a “complete overhaul” of services.
Figures show 3,155 children in Staffordshire have ‘moderate to severe’ mental health needs, but Healthwatch Staffordshire say significantly less are actively seeking help.
Jan Sensier, chief executive of Engaging Communities Staffordshire, which delivers Healthwatch, said:
“We’ve heard stories which paint a picture of long waiting times, poor communication between services and the how the stigma of mental health problems is preventing many young people from coming forward. There is a clear need for change and it will be interesting to see how the report of the government taskforce can be translated into reality both at a national and local level.”
The report recommended a host of measures including improved care close to home, extra training for GPs and school staff and a comprehensive set of waiting-time targets.
It also called for greater use of on-line tools to encourage young people to come forward and Healthwatch Staffordshire say that’s where their on-line review centre can help.
Ms Sensier added:
“We have established Experience Exchange to give people the chance to rate all kinds of health and social care services in the county.
We’re keen to help improve mental health services in the county and we can do that far more effectively with the help of the people that use them.”
Feedback on services can be left in confidence at the Experience Exchange by going to www.healthwatchstaffordshire.co.uk/x2 or call free on 0800 051 8371.