New bed for mental health children

A SPECIAL assessment bed for youngsters with mental health problems could be in place in Ipswich in the next two months. It will be the first attempt at some form of in-patient service for youngsters in the county in the last ten years.

A SPECIAL assessment bed for youngsters with mental health problems could be in place in Ipswich in the next two months.

It will be the first attempt at some form of in-patient service for youngsters in the county in the last ten years.

The move comes following revelations by the Evening Star that the numbers of child sufferers of mental health problems have soared in the last ten years, leaving services struggling and some youngsters waiting more than a year to see a psychiatrist.

While youngsters needing in patient care currently have to go to clinics in other counties – sometimes costing thousands of pounds a week – the new bed could see these numbers reduced and could show some children may not need extensive hospital treatment at all.

The new bed will give youngsters 72 hours to be assessed to find out what their problems are and whether they actually need inpatient treatment.

Ipswich Primary Care Trust is the purse holder for Suffolk Mental Health Partnership who will be buying the bed, and the Trust has now given the go-ahead to buy it.

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The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Society has bought beds in other clinics across the region for Suffolk youngsters to go to but this will be the first one in Suffolk.

Chief executive of Suffolk's Mental Health Partnership, Mark Halladay said children's services was one of his main concerns when the joined the trust last year.

The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in east Suffolk currently has a caseload of around 2,000 youngsters.

But while some health professionals have highlighted the need for an inpatient unit in Suffolk, children's mental health boss Alan Staff said it was unlikely to happen.

He said putting youngsters with varying types of mental illness into one unit would not be appropriate because they needed different treatments.

However, Mr Halladay said the new assessment bed could prevent the need for many youngsters to go into inpatient care in the first place.

He said sometimes youngsters did not necessarily need long-term inpatient care but once they had been referred somewhere they tended to stay there.

Mr Halladay said: "(With this bed) We will see all the youngsters in Suffolk who at face value seem to need some kind of inpatient care.

"Through that we will start to build up a picture of which youngsters really need inpatient care.

"After a year or so once we have had a number of admissions, we will be able to say OK if we are going to have an inpatient unit it should be geared to a certain problem."

Mr Halladay and Mr Staff have both said much work is going on to improve help for youngsters with mental health problems.

Mr Staff said: "Suffolk has not had a very good range of childrens services across the board.

"We have been trying to address the issue for the last 20 years. It has always been an issue."

Other measures being put in place to help youngsters include a county strategy based around trying to keep people out of hospital so they are able to be looked after at home.

Also the Return to Suffolk team is working at providing care for youngsters closer to home so they can be taken out of current care if they do not need it.

n. Do you think the changes are a step in the right direction? Does more need to be done? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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