New GIRFT lead for CYP mental health to continue work to improve community services

A new clinical lead has been appointed to head the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) children and young people’s mental health (CYPMH) workstream.

Dr Johnny Downs, senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist in community CAMHS at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, will continue the work of Dr Guy Northover, who will step down from the role later this month.

In particular, Dr Downs will lead on a key project to help understand challenges in community mental health services for CYP and to identify solutions and best practice.

“I’m delighted to be picking up the fantastic work carried out by Guy over the past five years, especially the focus on identifying the underlying causes of long waiting lists in the community and offering support to trusts on how they can optimise resources. I’m confident that GIRFT’s tried and tested methodology can really make a difference in this area and look forward to developing and presenting data packs with ICBs, looking at the key challenges across the whole system and how the various agencies can collaborate to improve access and waiting times for the many children and young people who need mental health services.”

GIRFT’s work to review CYPMH services began in 2018 and Dr Northover started carrying out virtual deep dive visits in 2020, visiting all provider collaborative groups in England, including NHS trusts and independent sector organisations. 

The GIRFT national report for CYPMH services was shared in April 2022, outlining the provision of care across England for CYP (aged 13-18) with defined mental health needs, such as psychosis, eating disorders and personality disorders, as well as services for CYP with neuro-disabilities such as autism and/or learning disabilities. A series of 21 recommendations were made, including measures to help improve access to intensive community support teams, ensure acute hospitals are part of the crisis pathway, and reduce the length of time patients spend in a general adolescent unit (GAU).

The report demonstrated how demand for CYP mental health services is rising, and recent figures show it continues to do so; in 2022/23, almost 710,000 children and young people aged 0-17 in England had at least one contact with an NHS-funded CYPMH service, and a 2023 survey found that one in five eight to 16-year-olds have a probable mental disorder.

"The GIRFT national report was very clear that mental health care for children and young people has never been more important, and Guy Northover has been at the forefront of driving improvements in the specialty. I am delighted to welcome Johnny to the GIRFT team, who I know will be as passionate and dedicated to supporting mental health care colleagues to optimise their resources, ensuring that these young patients get the best possible care and outcomes.”

Alongside his role at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Johnny is a senior clinical lecturer and National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) clinician scientist at the department of child and adolescent psychiatry, King’s College London (KCL). He is also a co-investigator on the NIHR Child and Families Policy Research Unit.

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