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Swansea Bay mental health service praised for significant improvements

SPECIALIST mental health support for young people in Swansea Bay has improved considerably from the “appalling” state it used to be in, according to a councillor.

Cllr Mary Jones spoke at the end of a presentation about child and adolescent mental health services, often referred to CAMHS, which helps young people aged up to 18 who have mild to moderate mental health issues relating to things like mood, anxiety, eating disorders, or potential psychosis.

CAMHS used to be provided by Cwm Taf University Health Board but has been run by Swansea Bay University Health Board since last April. Lead nurse Claire Norman gave an update to a Swansea Council scrutiny panel on the service’s progress.

Cllr Jones is not a panel member but listened to the presentation as she had led a previous CAMHS review, although it wasn’t clear how long ago it took place. “This is a different service to what we had,” she said. “It was appalling. We had parents and young people coming to our meeting and they were begging for help – and it was years [they were waiting], not months. So congratulations on all that work.”

Swansea Bay CAMHS serves Swansea and Neath Port Talbot and has a base in both counties. Staff also go out to visit families. Young people can be referred to the service by doctors, social workers, education psychologists and school counsellors. Referrals rose by 23% between 2019-22 among 11-18-year-olds but fell by 17% for children aged under 10.

Ms Norman said this fall among under-10s was positive but added: “Evidence is showing that there is a deterioration in young people’s mental health across the UK.” She said some young people were particularly unwell when the Covid pandemic came to an end.

Ms Norman said agency nurses had been recruited to help assess young people in need of CAMHS and that many more of these young people were being assessed within a 28-day target period than last year. She said around 100 young people were currently waiting to be assessed.

Ms Norman added that 60 to 70 young people with more entrenched mental health issues were receiving a more comprehensive package of care and support.

A mental well-being website called Kooth was set by CAMHS during Covid but new funding sources will be needed for it to continue in 2024-25.

Cllr Jones said CAMHS support worked for young people. “I have heard very good things about it,” she said.