Concerns over coverage of mental health support teams in Nottinghamshire’s most deprived areas

Nottinghamshire County Council
By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter

Concerns have been raised over coverage of mental health teams supporting children in the most deprived areas of Nottinghamshire.

Mental health support teams allow children and young people to benefit from help for needs which would not meet the threshold of a ‘diagnosable mental health problem’.

This can include children experiencing low mood, anxiety or behavioural difficulties. The NHS says since their creation in 2019, the Nottinghamshire mental health teams have grown “exponentially”.

But support only reaches 45 per cent of schools within Nottinghamshire currently.

The programme is run by  Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Councillor Michelle Welsh (Lab) told a county council health scrutiny committee meeting on February 20 that it was a “massive worry” that schools in the most deprived areas – Mansfield, Ashfield and Bassetlaw – will not have the same provision as other areas, despite a planned expansion of the programme.

By 2025, 46 per cent of schools in Rushcliffe and 87 per cent of schools in Newark and Sherwood will be supported by mental health teams.

By comparison, 12 per cent of schools in Bassetlaw, 29 per cent of schools in Mansfield and 24 per cent of schools in Ashfield will be covered by mental health teams.

NHS England said it selected areas which were eligible for the extra support based on deprivation data, eligibility for free school meals, the number of child protection plans, children in care and the number of safeguarding assessments.

Katharine Browne, senior public health and commissioning manager at Nottinghamshire County Council, said Nottinghamshire was not invited to bid for the latest funding round with NHS England.

Cllr Welsh said: “This is one of the most important issues facing children and young people at the moment.

“I always get disappointed when I hear about funding being competitive.

“You’re being treated the way you are because you’re doing good work and that is a disservice to children.

“They’re crying out for mental health support, particularly in primary schools.

“These figures are suggesting kids in our most deprived areas aren’t getting the support they need. It’s a massive worry.

“What it leads to is young men and women having mental health problems, which leads to the most tragic of circumstances.”

Carl Jones, of Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “I do agree, it is a concern. One life lost is too many.

“Nationally, they need to dust off their wallets, get their hands in their pockets and get this sorted out.

“This is early intervention in action and it works. It frustrates me and I haven’t got an answer for you.”

He added that the scheme is a “joyful initiative”.

Ms Browne said the most common problem faced by children and young people in schools is anxiety.

The mental health teams are made up of senior clinicians, therapists and practitioners, who carry out individual work, group sessions and parenting classes.

She said: “Mental health support teams are additional to all the other support which is available.

“We would absolutely welcome an additional focus in areas which have higher levels of deprivation, so that would be Bassetlaw, Ashfield and Mansfield.

“When the opportunity to bid arose, Bassetlaw primary schools had access to a resilience and mindfulness programme. That provision has ceased now so going forward Bassetlaw will be prioritised.

“Unfortunately we weren’t invited to bid at the last NHS England bidding round we understand that’s because as a local area, we have really good coverage.

“We aspire to 100 per cent coverage.”

Cllr Sinead Anderson (Con) said: “I’d like to know why Ashfield and Mansfield seem to have a lower percentage of schools supported by this, bearing in mind they would be top of the criteria?”

Ms Browne responded: “NHS England predetermined the initial areas.

“We have worked to test coverage in every district.

“We are absolutely committed in terms of additional rollouts. We will be led by the deprivation data.”

Cllr John Wilmott (Ind) added: “I find it absolutely astonishing that Nottinghamshire was not being invited to bid in the last round. It seems very sad with so many children not getting the opportunity at the moment.”

The committee agreed to write to NHS England on the issue.

Concluding, Cllr Jonathan Wheeler (Con) said: “We will write to NHS England as a committee to express our support for the work that has been done so far, however, we would welcome additional funding as it is clear we have areas that haven’t had the same level of interaction.”

The letter will also be sent to Nottinghamshire’s MPs.

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