DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he was ‘moved’ by the experiences of a Sheffield mother struggling to get treatment for her young child, as he announced a multi-million boost for children’s mental health services.
Helen Basu Chaudhuri, whose sick child had to wait seven months for treatment after services were hit by cutbacks, tackled Mr Clegg at a question-and-answer event organised by The Star last year.
Announcing a £22 million fund today to improve access to healthcare for vulnerable youngsters, Mr Clegg said: “I was very moved by Helen Basu Chaudhuri’s comments when we spoke.
“I am determined to do all I can to help children with mental health issues, and I hope this extra funding will go some way to helping children get fast access to the best available mental healthcare services.”
Sheffield campaigners say the service is in crisis, after the city’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services budget was cut by 16 per cent.
The Star yesterday revealed some families are waiting up to 44 weeks to access support, with more than 450 youngsters on the waiting list for appointments.
Mrs Basu Chaudhuri, aged 46, stood up and tackled Mr Clegg over her child’s seven-month wait for treatment last February.
The widowed mum-of-three from Millhouses said her child, a primary school pupil, was waiting without treatment because GPs could not prescribe drugs for children.
Speaking out at the reader event, she said: “This is a hidden problem because people feel unable to come forward to get help.”
Mr Clegg said he was ‘incredibly distressed’ to hear her story, and later wrote to the Sheffield health service to intervene.
Mrs Basu Chaudhuri, whose child is now being treated for severe anxiety, today welcomed the new money.
She told The Star: “This funding is fantastic news - as long as it filters down and makes a difference to the families who actually need it.
“If it works in bringing down waiting times and improving access that is brilliant - but it remains to be seen whether that will really happen.”
Deborah Woodhouse, director of Sheffield charity Asperger’s Children and Carers Together, said: “With a waiting time of around 44 weeks for a child to been seen by a clinician, too many children in Sheffield are being left without treatment. Let’s hope Mr Clegg’s announcement ensures this truly shocking state of affairs in his home constituency is changed.”
The new funding will be spent on making treatment available to more young people, improving access and training NHS clinicians in new therapies.
Dr Steve Jones, joint clinical director of Sheffield Children’s Hospital mental health and wellbeing department, confirmed his team would be applying for the new cash, and said he ‘welcomed’ the news.