NASUrgent outside intervention is needed to address serious systemic failings in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in Cumbria, which is putting the lives of vulnerable children at risk, according to the National Autistic Society (NAS). 

The NAS has written to regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to highlight the problems, requesting an immediate inspection of local services followed by appropriate action to help them protect local children from harm. A letter has also been sent to NHS England, asking for an urgent review of commissioning arrangements. 

This step was taken after three years of sustained complaints and no sign of the situation improving, according to the NAS.

It has welcomed Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s response, which is responsible for CAMHS in Cumbria, in particular their recognition of the serious issues they are facing and their proposal to work with us to address these issues.

Emma Shepherd, NAS area policy and participation officer (North), said: “CAMHS in Cumbria are in disarray: staff shortages are forcing under-pressure families to wait far too long for appointments, parents are all too often unable to access support in times of crisis, and things aren't improving. This is putting the wellbeing and even the lives of children with serious mental health problems at great risk, and causing parents untold emotional stress.

“Serious concerns about the service were first raised in October 2012, but the response has been feeble and recommendations haven’t been implemented. 

“We welcome the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s response to our concerns, their recognition of the serious issues they are facing and their proposal to work with us to address these issues. We also appreciate the steps they have taken to fill some of the staff vacancies and we recognise that individual members of staff are doing their best in very challenging circumstances. However, we’re still concerned that the things won’t change unless the service is properly reviewed by the responsible national bodies and urgent action taken.

“Ultimately, we share the same priority of making sure that vulnerable children and young people can get the specialist help they need.”