COLUMN: Helen Hayes MP

News Desk (10 March, 2016) Columnists

"There is a crisis in mental health care for children"

2182Helen Hayes MP

Almost exactly a month ago, a distraught local parent visited one of my regular advice surgeries to talk to me about the situation facing her fifteen year-old son, Matthew.

Matthew is autistic, and has other complex mental health needs. Last September Matthew attacked his dad, and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, a distressing situation for any family. It was agreed very quickly that the best place for Matthew to be was a specialist facility in Northampton.

Matthew was sent to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in Woking to wait for the specialist place to become available. Six months later Matthew is still in the original PICU, which is unable to treat him or even assess his needs, because there are patients in Northampton who are ready to go home but can’t because the community care and support simply isn’t there as a result of this government’s cuts.

His parents have to travel a long distance to visit him and sometimes not able to reach him on the phone for days. Matthew’s mental and physical health are deteriorating.  He doesn’t understand why he can’t come home and believes he is in prison.

Matthew’s case is a terrible example of how mental health services are failing children and young people.  I know from conversations with local doctors and parents that there is a crisis in mental health care for children, and it is normal for children who need to be admitted to hospital with a mental illness to be sent a long distance from home for the care that they need, making them even more vulnerable.

I am pressing the government to sort out the care that Matthew needs as soon as possible, so that he can recover and come home to his family and their heartbreak can end.  I will continue to campaign until the government gives mental health the same priority as physical health within the NHS, so that vulnerable children are no longer sent long distances away from home and mental health services are readily available to anyone who needs them.

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