MORE than 620 children and teenagers are waiting for mental health care in Gloucestershire, with many waiting over two years for help.

Civic chiefs are seriously concerned that the four to 11-year-old cohort in particular has been suffering terribly since the coronavirus pandemic.

Councillor Collette Finnegan (C, Abbeydale), who is Gloucester City Council’s representative on Gloucestershire County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee, asked health chiefs what they are doing to improve the situation with child and adolescent mental health services.

She said: “The waiting list for CAMHS [Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services]  is anything between 18 months to two years. What are we doing to address that please?

“My concern is we have a number of young children who have suffered quite a lot during Covid. The four to 11-year-olds that are suffering terribly.”

Douglas Blair, chief executive officer of Gloucestershire Health and Care Foundation Trust, said he recognised that the waiting list continues to be very long.

He told the committee that the total waiting list has reduced since the start of the year but they still have 627 on the waiting list.

“It was higher in January. About 60 per cent of that waiting list has been waiting under a year while 40 per cent is over a year.

“Absolutely we’ve still got some very long waits that we are tackling but we feel we are starting to make some progress.

“Both in terms of reducing the total size of the waiting list but also in particular one of the challenges we’ve had in this period of very significant increase of demand we have also been expanding the workforce in different ways.

“We’ve wanted to put more mental health support in schools, that’s drawing on the same people in terms of the workforce.

“Our core child and adolescent mental health service has had a reduction in its total number of people in post during this calendar year.

“But the good news is that’s starting to come back up the other way. We are now seeing around 70 per cent of people are now in post. We’ve got a further 16 per cent of people in a pipeline of recruitment.”

Cllr Finnegan asked what happens when children are not at school as she’s seen parents “tearing their hair out” during the summer with four, five and six-year-olds who are in desperate need of help.

“The schools are closed and there’s nowhere for them to go. What happens during those periods?”

Mr Blair said that would draw on all mental health services. He couldn’t give an exact answer but explained they have been trailing a system to gather people earlier when issues are being raised to understand what different options are available.

Cllr Finnegan requested that the committee chairman Andrew Gravells suggested setting up a task and finish group to look into the matter. Councillors agreed with this proposal.

“This is to do more detailed work with guys at the trust to report back to the main corporate overview and scrutiny committee.”