Child mental health: UK provision ‘worse than in much of eastern Europe’

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Britain has one of the lowest numbers of hospital beds in Europe for young people struggling with serious mental health problems, EU-funded research has found, (according to an article in The Guardian).

It is lagging far behind the level of provision in many much poorer countries in eastern Europe, such as Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia, according to a study of care for troubled under-18s across the EU.

Britain has 9.4 specialist inpatient beds per 100,000 young people for those who are suffering from conditions such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. That places it 18th in a league table of the 28 EU countries, researchers say.

The UK is even lower down the EU league table for the number of psychiatrists specialising in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). With just 4.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 young people, it comes 21st. That is far fewer than Finland, which has the most, at 36 such specialists per 100,000 under-18s.

On that measure, Britain is again behind a raft of Eastern European countries such as Estonia (16.8), Lithuania (14) and Latvia (11.2). Bulgaria, the country with the fewest, has only 1.9 psychiatrists for every 100,000 children and young people.

Experts warned that the UK’s low rankings meant that troubled under-18s were not getting the care they needed.

“Our youth deserve better than what they currently receive. Despite being the sixth-richest country in the world, and with a health service that is said to be the ‘envy of the world’, when it comes to mental health provision for children and young people, the UK sadly lags behind other EU countries on many indicators, especially on the number of CAMHS psychiatrists”, said Prof Swaran Singh of Warwick University, referring to the NHS’s child and adolescent mental health services.

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