Supporting Children and Young People’s Mental Health

Awareness surrounding mental health has improved in recent years, but there are still many areas within the healthcare system that need attention.

One of the ICB’s three missions is dedicated to tackling inequalities and inaccessibility when it comes to children and youth mental health in NW London. The mission team is comprised of Imperial College Health Partners (ICHP) and the NW London ICB.

Our aim is to ensure that children and young people in NW London have equitable, timely, and accessible care services provided by the NW London Integrated Care Partnership to best promote mental health wellbeing. We hope to prevent children and young people in NW London from experiencing avoidable mental health crises due to inequality, stigma or inaccessible care.​

It’s our mission to ensure that children and young adults have the best start in life, with a particular focus on promoting positive mental health and enabling an appropriate range of support to enable early and effective intervention.​​​

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Innovation opportunity areas

After an extensive research phase, the mission team has chosen two core focus areas for the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Mission:

Neurodevelopmental Disorders (NDD)

Neurodevelopmental conditions result in high levels of mental health and wellbeing needs for children and young people. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are the conditions causing most pressure in the system due to a combination of factors, including greater public awareness and demand for services; a mismatch between workforce capacity for specialised assessments and demand; and deterioration in mental health needs whilst waiting for a diagnosis. For the NDD focus, we aim to enable early equitable access and shrink waiting times to assessment for ADHD and ASD using data-driven insights and innovations.

Crisis Care

Children presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) in crisis might have a variety of conditions: self-harm, mental health issues, learning disabilities and autism, and/or challenging behaviours (with or without a diagnosis).  In NWL, ED mental health attendances for 0-17yrs old are now ~60% higher than at the start of the pandemic. There is a strong sentiment among staff that this issue has worsened but a lack of clear and standardised data on CYP in crisis is preventing action. Some of the pressures felt by staff may be due to: demand failure elsewhere in the system leading to crises while waiting for support (national data suggests that 12% of CYP contact crisis teams while waiting for support); increased crisis presentations from specific cohorts, like children known to social care; or the high staff ratios needed to manage children with complex needs.

Interested in finding out more about our CYP mental health mission?

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Why is this important?

We’ve spoken to NHS staff, patients and carers to better understand why it’s essential that we implement solutions when it comes to caring for children and young people’s mental health… 

Part of the issue is that we’re not very good at treating the whole person. And so there is always a distinction, rightly in some cases, but not in many cases, about the care that’s provided in the mental health sense and the physical health sense. And so, for example, the work that we do around long-term physical health conditions where there are mental health implications attached—like being diagnosed as diabetic at young age, for example—actually weren’t really coordinated very well across the system.

From where we sit in the acute sector, the thing that is devastating is seeing children and young people who have some sort of mental health crisis and the pathway for that feels wholly, wholly unsatisfactory. And sometimes it does work reasonably well, but too often you get kids spending a very long time in the emergency department, largely due to an inability to find an appropriate mental health bed for them.

We’re just not there in terms of actually having a treatment or a support system in place. And so then things trickle down and then we hit the crisis point. But actually our crisis provision is also quite inadequate. And when we look at the broader picture, so think of things like eating disorders as well as self-harming and depressive issues, again, we just haven’t got the systems there to do the early intervention, the family work.

Mission Resources

You can’t pour from an empty cup: making staff wellbeing a priority

On Mental Health Awareness Week, Sadie Myhill, ICHP Senior PPIE Lead, reflects on a recent...
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Education to Employment: My internship at ICHP

As part of the Employ Autism scheme run by Ambitious About Autism, in partnership with...
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Getting better faster – supporting a new Eating Disorder intervention service in NWL

Kyle Lee-Crossett, Innovation Advisor, reflects on how an innovative Eating Disorder service is transforming care...
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Covid-19: How has it impacted the mental health of children and young people?

Reflecting on Mental Health Awareness Week, Matthew Chisambi, Associate Director of Transformation at Imperial College...
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Supporting young people with eating disorders

Innovation Advisors Charlotte Douglas and Sarah Houston discuss the launch of a new service for...
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ADHD: Reducing time to diagnosis for children and young people in London

In partnership with two other London AHSNs, Health Innovation Network (HIN) and UCL Partners (UCLP),...
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