Child and adolescent mental health services in a North East Foundation Trust where two girls died in two months have been closed as the result of enforcement action by the Care Quality Commission.

The service is comprised of five units across West Lane Hospital, West Park Hospital and Roseberry Park. The units at West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough have been closed, and 32 young people have had to be shipped to other units, which are likely to be crowded and further from their homes.

The CQC’s enforcement action followed on concerns raised by inspectors at the trust in June 2019, which were confirmed by a return inspection on August 20 and 21, although the report identifying the most recent findings has not yet been published and will appear “in due course”.

The June report, which the CQC says was “prompted by concerns raised about the treatment of young people receiving support, low staffing, a poor culture and a significant number of self-harming incidents at West Lane Hospital” noted a marked deterioration in services that had been rated Good overall, and Good for safe, effective, caring and well-led services only a year previously.

This time child and adolescent mental health wards were rated Inadequate overall and for safe, responsive and well-led services, and Requires Improvement for caring and effective services.

Staff told the CQC that staffing was insufficient to support the complex needs of the young people using the service.

There have also been allegations of staff ill-treating patients, and using inappropriate techniques for moving patients. Middlesbrough Labour MP Andy McDonald told the BBC that the CQC action was evidence of a systemic failure.

Meanwhile the lack of government commitment to address desperate lack of resources in child and adolescent mental health is illustrated by a recent press release trumpeting the relatively trivial allocation of £3.3m across local projects to help prevent mental illness in children and young people.

The Local Government Association has called for a complete overhaul of children’s mental health services to ensure young people receive better care and support.

The LGA is calling for more government funding and resources to ensure early diagnosis for children.

The councils argue that councils have had to use their own reduced budgets to pay for services to plug the gap to get young people the urgent treatment they require, while fragmentation and in the system forces young people and their families into a complex struggle with multiple practitioners and agencies.

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