Fatal gaps in NHS mental health services and cancer care | Letters

Extreme pressure on children and young people’s mental health services, once again highlighted by a survey of GPs on their experience of referrals to these services, is sadly not new (Swamped NHS mental health services turning away children, say GPs, 3 April).

Mental health services for children and young people were already very strained going into the pandemic and the stresses have been exacerbated during the last two years, with forecasts of up to 1.5 million youngsters needing new or additional support.

The reality is stark. Despite everything NHS leaders and their teams are doing, a generation is now facing longer waits for treatment. We need to act now, as we know that 50% of adult mental health problems start in childhood.

Unless the government acts to urgently bring forward a comprehensive plan to respond to the growing demand for mental healthcare in England, including a significant expansion of the mental health workforce, this situation will only get worse.

A key element of this recovery plan must include a sharp focus on providing early, targeted and preventive support for children and young people who have, or are at risk of having, mental health issues, as this is an area that has seen a significant increase during the Covid pandemic.

A national crisis of this scale deserves sustained attention from the government in the same way we have seen with the elective care backlog.
Sean Duggan
Chief executive, NHS Confederation’s mental health network

Your article (340,000 cancer patients face late diagnosis due to NHS staff shortages, 5 April) points out that a lack of early diagnosis could be the difference between life and death.

Those of us working in the palliative care sector are already seeing an increased number of people who are now dying because they faced delays in diagnosis or treatment, and sometimes both.

According to our research carried out in partnership with the Association for Palliative Medicine, 86% of palliative care clinicians said that they had encountered patients presenting as terminal who had had a late diagnosis due to the NHS backlog.
Dr Sarah Holmes
Medical director, Marie Curie

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By Percy