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In a strong pledge for government to improve NHS services for children with mental health issues including eating disorders, Jeremy Hunt was quoted in both The Health Services Journal and The Guardian (20th October 2016) “There are too many tragedies because children develop eating disorders or psychosis or chronic depression, which is then very difficult to put right as they get older,” he said.

Mr Hunt went further to say that Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) may be “possibly the biggest single area of weakness in NHS provision at the moment.”

“I think we are letting down too many families and not intervening early enough when there is a curable mental health condition, which we can do something about when a child is eight or nine, but if you leave it until they are 15 or 16, it’s too late,” Hunt told the Health Service Journal.

The Guardian revealed this month that almost a quarter of a million children and young people aged 18 and below are being treated for mental health problems by specialist NHS services in England every month. However, that is a significant underestimate of the true scale of the demand for treatment, as only 60% of NHS mental health trusts supplied data to NHS Digital, which collated the figures.

Recent reports, including one by the Children’s Commissioner for England, found that up to 28% of children and young people referred to CAMHS teams are refused treatment because they are not ill enough to qualify.

NHS care of children and young people is the service’s biggest weakness and so inadequate that it is causing too many tragedies, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said.

Hunt has pledged to improve the diagnosis and treatment of troubled children by NHS children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Problems need to be identified earlier so that young people no longer struggle with debilitating conditions for years before receiving help, he said.

Referring to the quality of care CAMHS teams provide, Hunt said: “I think this is possibly the biggest single area of weakness in NHS provision at the moment. There are too many tragedies because children develop eating disorders or psychosis or chronic depression, which is then very difficult to put right as they get older.”

Dr Marc Bush, chief policy adviser for charity Young Minds, commented to The Guardian on the issue of capacity in CAMHS: “The reality is that far more needs to be done. Many local CAMHS services are severely overstretched, with long waiting times and high thresholds for treatment.”

Ellern Mede is an independent specialist eating disorder service. We recognise the demand for more rapid access to specialist services for children with eating disorders and so we are expanding our existing capacity, opening a private London outpatient service in November as well as a new private eating disorder hospital in Barnet early next year. Ellern Mede School, in The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London is an OFSTED ‘outstanding’ rated school which provides education to children and young people receiving treatment at Ellern Mede hospitals.