‘Working together is at the heart of everything we do’ – CAMHS

HE Western Trust’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) has said that the Covid-19 pandemic presented new challenges for children and young people across the area.

While the Western Trust service currently has 540 young people on its waiting list, referral demand continues to outstrip CAMHS capacity and the team has continued to see a “significant rise” in referral rates year on year.

In 2016/17 accepted referrals to the service reached 1,772. While 2017/18 saw accepted referrals figures of 1,975 peaking at a 36% increase in 2018/19 with 2,577 referrals accepted by the service.


CAMHS had a marginal fall in 2019/20 accepting 2096 referrals and keeping with other services regionally and nationally referral rates fell sharply in the first quarter over lockdown with an annual acceptance rate of 1,192 throughout 2020/21.

Despite widespread concerns from parents and young people in relation to their experience with CAMHS over the lockdown period, the service says that it remained operational “throughout the pandemic” despite facing many challenges.

In a response to criticisms, a spokeswoman from the Western Trust told this paper, “The service is committed to seeing the highest priority and most vulnerable young people in receipt of the service through face to face appointments.

“Any young person experiencing a mental health crisis or requiring urgent assessment were also seen face to face.

“The Service has endeavoured to mitigate lost capacity (due to ensuring safety with respect to infection control measures through social distancing) by developing virtual clinics and remote working to connect therapeutically with young people and families.

“All young people on the CAMHS waiting list were contacted during the initial lockdown and guidance with respect to useful information given.

“During the rebuilding of HSC services in October 2020 – December 2020, 385 new young people were seen by the service and 2,330 young people were reviewed.


“The Service would wish to acknowledge that referrals rates fell significantly during the first Covid lockdown, however, rates have continued to rise since restrictions have eased.

All referrals are screened and clinically triaged by the CAMHS referral coordinator daily to ensure the most vulnerable young people at risk receive timely assessment and intervention.

“Whilst the service meets regional access targets with respect to emergency (within 24hrs) and urgent referrals ( within 5 days) it has consistently missed regional targets of 9 weeks wait for routine choice appointment.

“Given the level of ongoing demand on the service the most high risk and vulnerable children are prioritised to be seen.

“Waiting times remain under regular robust scrutiny and monitoring by the service senior management team, Trust and HSCB.

“The service would wish to acknowledge the frustration felt by families with respect to not meeting regional routine access times.

“Unprecedented challenges on the service have been acknowledged by the Trust and HSCB with additional funding secured for the first time in over a decade to support additional staff recruitment and progression of the development of the service over the forthcoming years.

“The Service would wish to acknowledge a particular challenging period over an approx. 9 month period from March 21 – November 2021. The Service witnessed an unprecedented period of staffing challenges, whilst staffing is currently at a more satisfactory level, wider systemic demands continue to challenge the Service. CAMHS welcomes all feedback and upholds the Trust policy and procedures for the management of complaints and compliments.”

If a parent or carer has concerns about their child or young person’s emotional health and well-being CAMHS “actively” encourages them to approach their GP to discuss their concerns and seek guidance with regards to ongoing supports.

If a child or young person is actively known to CAMHS and a parent/carer becomes concerned with regards to their emotional health and well-being we would encourage parents/carer to make contact with their CAMHS clinician if this occurs during the hours of 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. If concerns arise outside of this time parents and carers should follow out of hours arrangements.

In addition there are a wide range of apps (the worry box, Booster Buddy, Mindful Gnats, Headspace, Positive Penguins, Chill Panda), websites include:,,, and links/resources through PHA that can be utilised.

Freely available websites and links that may be helpful for parents/carers and children/young people in managing emotional health and wellbeing at present. Files/Talking to children about coronavirus.pdf -Files/Talking to children about coronavirus.pdf,

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