Sheffield CAMHS: Dad makes plea for better support for parents of children with mental health problems

A Sheffield councillor who is a parent of a child with a serious mental health issue told city NHS leaders very little help is available for parents in the same position as him.
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Coun Kevin Oxley spoke during a discussion on Sheffield Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) at a meeting of Sheffield City Council’s health scrutiny sub-committee.

The meeting heard about the NHS service’s response to a series of inspections by the independent health and social care regulator the Care Quality Commission last year. Issues highlighted included long waiting times.

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Several councillors said that they were worried about waiting lists and problems in finding out how to get a referral to the CAMHS service in the first place.

Coun Kevin Oxley has spoken at a Sheffield City Council meeting about the lack of support for parents coping with a child with mental health issues, something he has personal experience ofCoun Kevin Oxley has spoken at a Sheffield City Council meeting about the lack of support for parents coping with a child with mental health issues, something he has personal experience of
Coun Kevin Oxley has spoken at a Sheffield City Council meeting about the lack of support for parents coping with a child with mental health issues, something he has personal experience of

Coun Oxley said: “As a parent of a child with serious mental health issues who then went through that waiting process in terms of getting referred to and then getting treatment through CAMHS, and talking to other parents in that similar situation, I’ve always felt that we are not doing nearly enough to support those parents, because they’re the everyday carers of these children. I’ve always felt that very much you are left in the dark in terms of how to deal, how to talk, how to support your children in that situation.

“Obviously that’s only going to be exacerbated with the waiting lists, and I know the reason why we’ve got those waiting lists, so my question there is what more can we do that will help parents of children to help support their children until they can get the treatment that they need?”

‘Little support’

Dr Jeff Perring, executive medical director for Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said that the increasing size of waiting lists over the past three or four years, particularly since the pandemic, means it is something they are looking at now.

Sheffield Children’s Hospital chief nurse Yvonne Millard and Dr Jeff Perring, executive medical director for the hospital, speaking about the city's CAMHS service at a meeting of Sheffield City CouncilSheffield Children’s Hospital chief nurse Yvonne Millard and Dr Jeff Perring, executive medical director for the hospital, speaking about the city's CAMHS service at a meeting of Sheffield City Council
Sheffield Children’s Hospital chief nurse Yvonne Millard and Dr Jeff Perring, executive medical director for the hospital, speaking about the city's CAMHS service at a meeting of Sheffield City Council
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Sheffield Children’s Hospital chief nurse Yvonne Millard said: “Our families are part of the care and not all our families have got the skills to do that, quite understandably – I don’t have them, I’m not a mental health nurse. So I think going forward there is a real opportunity for us to engage more fully and actually help people understand the route you’ve chosen is a helpful route or an unhelpful route in that stuation.”

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Coun Oxley said: “Prevention is always better and support to stop that situation escalating and I know from personal experience there is very little support. If you go to various charity sites as well, there’s very little advice, very little support for parents who are more often tearing their hair out and saying how do I support my child.

‘Help parents’

“By providing that advice, I think it would certainly help parents and ultimately the children in those situations. I’ve seen the full caveat of what’s possible.

“If there is one thing it’s having something on the website saying that is what you need to do, that is what we are lacking in. It’s the type of thing Sheffield University has spent a lot of time training their security staff, for example, in terms of mental health training, because they’re the first on the scene quite often, and that’s paid dividends because they know how to support a young person in crisis.”

Dr Trish Edney of Healthwatch said one answer was for CAMHS to move more into the community and also to extend its work in schools.

Yvonne Millard told the committee that lack of resources for recruitment was not a problem around waiting lists, it’s the very small pool of specialist staff available to recruit from. She said the trust is working on issues around staff retention, including upgrading lower-level roles.