Nearly a quarter of young people are being turned away by child and adolescent mental health services, a new report by a think tank claims.
CentreForum said that although cases were referred by concerned GPs, parents, teachers and others 23% were turned away because their condition was not considered serious enough or suitable for specialist mental health treatment.
The think tank held a commission into mental health care for children and young people and said its findings suggested that opportunities for early intervention were being missed.
One-in-ten children between five and 16, or an estimated 720,000 children in England, have a mental health problem.
The commission found that there was a wide variation in the average waiting time, from two weeks in Cheshire to 19 weeks in north Staffordshire.
The average waiting time for children in Gateshead in the north east is five times as long as for patients nearby in Tyneside.
The CentreForum commission also found a variation in London with waits of two months in Kensington and Chelsea to nearly six months in Brent.
It said that the average waiting time concealed “hidden waits” with some children facing maximum waiting times of six months for a first appointment and nearly ten months to start their treatment.
More money was spent on children’s mental health in the North, compared with the South and East of England.
The author of the report Emily Frith said there was “a stark inequality in the NHS where, unlike those who are physically ill, children and young people with mental health problems are still not getting the right treatment, at the right time, in the right place.”
CentreForum said current service provision is “patchy and highly variable in terms of access, availability and quality of mental health treatment.”
It said that just 0.7% of NHS funding is spent on young people’s mental health, with just 16% on early intervention.
Former minister for mental health under the coalition government Norman Lamb MP who chaired the commission said: “This is not about blaming services, or those who commission them. It is a highly complex problem which has existed for decades. Those who work in services are all too aware of the lack of equality for mental health care. Transforming services will take time and sustained commitment.”
The report can be found here