WAITING times for young people who need help with mental health problems have fallen significantly in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
The overwhelming majority of referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are seen a week after being referred by a GP or school counselling service, among others.
CAMHS teams are run by NHS Wales and are typically made up of experts including psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists, and social workers.
There is a specialist CAMHS service and a primary service for young people with less severe difficulties.
Swansea Bay University Health Board is integrating CAMHS in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, while also launching a new emotional and well-being service aimed at preventing young people’s mental health issues from getting worse.
Joanne Abbott-Davies, assistant director of strategy at Swansea Bay University Health Board, explained how the integrated CAHMS team would work at a Swansea Council scrutiny meeting.
She said there had been a history of poor performance, but this was changing.
“There has been a massive reduction in waiting times,” she said.
“The number of referrals is reducing, because of other and additional support.”
She said about half of referrals previously had not met the CAMHS criteria and these parents and young people “were ping-ponged around the system”.
She said now only 7% of referrals didn’t meet the criteria.
The new integrated service will be run from Neath Port Talbot Hospital, with appointments and support delivered from smaller locations in the two counties.
Ms Abbott-Davies said colleagues were looking at alternatives to the current clinic located at Swansea’s Cefn Coed Hospital.
In August, the specialist CAMHS in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot saw 78 new referrals, with 640 follow-ups. The number on the waiting list, as of October, is 61 for specialist CAMHS, with an additional 42 for primary CAMHS.
Meanwhile, the new emotional and well-being service will employ staff to support primary school-age children, while councils will provide staff for secondary school pupils. Sessions will focus on anxiety, emotional literacy, and well-being.
A single point of contact will also be established to simplify the system, in addition to new telephone advice and consultation line.
And a family support hub will be created on The Kingsway, Swansea.
Ms Abbott-Davies said the new-look CAMHS team, which costs just under £3m per year and is commissioned from neighbouring Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, should be up and running next June.
She added: “I would be the first to say there is more to do.”
Councillor Des Thomas said “things can’t get worse”, based on previous CAMHS scrutiny work.
He added: “I think we need to report back in 12 months so we can measure the progress.”
Councillor Paxton Hood-Williams said an early intervention was important, while Councillors Susan Jones and Cyril Anderson said they had cases in their wards where young people had been waiting for months for CAMHS support.
But Cllr Anderson welcomed the improvements.
Addressing Ms Abbott-Davies, he said: “You need to be congratulated – it’s about time, and thank you on behalf of these children.”