Children with mental health problems can wait for more than three years to be assessed and up to nearly two years to receive treatment, according to a report.
Freedom of Information requests submitted by The Times newspaper found that the longest wait from first referral to being formally assessed since 2012 was at the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, where this took three years and 20 weeks in one case.
The longest wait from being assessed to getting treatment was found at the South London and Maudsley Trust in which a child waited a year and nearly 42 weeks.
Sarah Brennan, chief executive of the charity Young Minds, said: “Children’s and adolescent mental health services are creaking at the seams as they are being hit with increased referrals at the same time as cutbacks to their services.”
The number of children being sent to mental health service rose by more than 6 per cent between 2013 and 2014, according to information about 26 mental health trusts. In some cases children had to travel hundreds of miles from one trust to another because of a lack of beds.
Norman Lamb, the care and support minister, said: “It’s completely unacceptable for children and young people to wait years for treatment sometimes hundreds of miles from home — we wouldn’t accept this for physical health.”
He said the Government was investing £1.25bn to improve care and deliver a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks for treatment.
The Sussex trust described its longest waits as “unacceptable”, but said its average waiting time was just nine weeks last year.
The South London trust said its average waiting time for assessments was 25 days. However it said there were “pressures” on mental health services for children and said “increased investment in specialist inpatient services” was needed.