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Key points

Across the UK, the number of children and young people experiencing mental health problems is growing.

Mental health services are expanding, but not fast enough to meet rising needs, leaving many children and young people with limited or no support. Too little is known about who receives care and crucially, who doesn’t.

This briefing presents analysis from the Health Foundation’s Networked Data Lab (NDL) about children and young people’s mental health. The analysis from local teams across England, Scotland and Wales has highlighted three key areas for urgent investigation, to help ensure children and young people get the care they need. These are:

  • rapid increases in mental health prescribing and support provided by GPs
  • the prevalence of mental health problems among adolescent girls and young women
  • stark socioeconomic inequalities across the UK.

To inform national policy decisions and local service planning and delivery, the quality of data collection, analysis and the linkage of datasets across services and sectors need to be improved and used more effectively.

In this briefing, we present analysis from the Networked Data Lab (NDL). Led by the Health Foundation, the NDL is a collaborative network of local analytical teams across England, Scotland and Wales. These teams analysed local, linked data sources to explore trends in mental health presentations across primary, specialist and acute services.

This briefing includes:

  • background on the trends in mental health disorders among children and young people and existing pressures on services, as well as an overview of the main policies in place in England, Scotland, and Wales to improve children and young people’s mental health
  • findings from NDL partners: we examine trends and patterns of service use, including the use of primary care, specialist mental health care and acute services, along with differences by demographic and socioeconomic characteristics
  • examples of how local NDL teams used linked data to improve services in their area
  • insights for national and local policymakers.

Cite this publication

Grimm F, Alcock B, Butler J, Fernandez Crespo R, Davies A, Peytrignet S, Piroddi R, Thorlby R, Tallack C. Improving children and young people’s mental health services: Local data insights from England, Scotland and Wales. The Health Foundation; 2022 (https://doi.org/10.37829/HF-2022-NDL1).

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