A mental health trust, which had been blasted for its long waiting lists, says it has slashed waiting times for children needing treatment.

South West Yorkshire Foundation Trust, which manages NHS mental health services in Kirklees and Calderdale, was criticised after it was revealed that children and teenagers were waiting over a year – sometimes years – to receive assessments and treatment.

Trust bosses had recognised that children and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) had been underfunded during the last six months.

Indeed, nine months ago South West Yorkshire Foundation Trust (SWYFT) chiefs admitted that Camhs were ‘not fit for purpose’.

But following Government investment – SWYFT now receives an additional £746,430 a year for Camhs – the trust has set up a crisis team and recruited extra staff.

The team, which deals with emergencies, allows other clinical staff to deal with young people who have less urgent but nonetheless serious mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

SWYFT says the average wait for ‘intervention’ treatment has been cut from 14 to seven months.

South West Yorkshire Foundation Trust consultant children and adolscent psychiatrist Cheyvonne Ogunde
South West Yorkshire Foundation Trust consultant children and adolscent psychiatrist Cheyvonne Ogunde

But trust Camhs director Linda Moon, however, admits there is a funding ‘gap’ and an undesirably long wait for treatment still exists.

Ms Moon said: “Some children are waiting a few months for the intervention side of it. What has happened over the 12 months is the development of a crisis team.

“We now have the capacity to start working on those waiting lists and in effect, they are coming down month on month over the next six months to an appropriate level.

“We have had a lot more resources both from the trust and the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group). It has been recognised that Camhs has always been under-resourced.”

But for children, with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), the wait for an assessment still stretches into years.

SWYFT has admitted it is unacceptable and that it is working to improve the situation.

Ms Moon said: “I don’t think you could find anyone in Camhs or the locality that thinks it’s acceptable...

But she added: “You also need education, psychology, paediatrician, speech and language services so there’s no point putting all the funding in Cahms.

“However, we are aware of the prolonged waiting list and we are working closely with the CCG to look at how we can start to improve the waiting times for ASD.”

READ MORE: Mental illness detentions increase in Kirklees and Calderdale at more than double the national rate

READ MORE: Kirklees children's mental health services receive extra £3.7m in 'fast lane' bid to fix failures

SWYFT bosses believe treating mental illness shouldn’t just be a job for mental health services.

Staff, who work with children in other fields, should be trained to recognise signs of mental illness.

Treating mental illness at an early stage is much cheaper.

Ms Moon said: “When young people have to go into inpatient units it is extremely expensive.

“There isn’t enough money to deal with it all so we have to look at where the most impact is – and a lot of that is early intervention.”

SWYFT child psychiatrist Cheyvonne Ogunde added: “We don’t have a choice as a nation. We have to invest in young people’s mental health and emotional health and wellbeing.

“If we don’t it means that those problems will persist and then we have an adult population with more mental health needs.”