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Working with services

Working with NHS Services

Claire Ely, Head of Services at Anna Freud, answers some key questions about what a young person should expect if they decide to work with an NHS service.

What kind of NHS services are there?

There are two kinds of NHS services for children and young people. 

The first would be classed as a community services which is called CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) or CYP (Children and Young People) Mental Health Services.  These services are NHS services that assess and treat young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. 

The second type of services are called inpatient units, or Tier 4 units, and these are for young people with more serious difficulties than can be worked with in the community.  A young person attending an inpatient unit will be required to stay overnight and, perhaps, for a period of time.

More infoInpatient Care

What makes a good service?

What makes a good service might be different to different people. Often, young people may have heard good things about a particular services from their friends, relatives or a trusted adult professional, such as a teacher or a GP. A young person may also want to consider the following things when looking at whether a service is a good service:

  • Do they have a good website with lots of information about the service?

  • Do they have other materials which can provide you with information to inform and support you?

  • Do they use words like ‘collaborative’ which demonstrate how they work with a young person?

  • Do their materials and website reflect the voices of other young people who have used the service?

  • Do they offer a range of treatments or interventions that a young person can access?

  • Do they have a clear process to allow you to feedback on the treatment you receive including a complaints process?

Anyone accessing support from a service should also feel able to ask questions about any of the above or regarding any concerns the young person may have about working with a service. You might want to ask these questions at your initial meeting or at any stage during your treatment. Sometimes, writing down your questions will help you to remember to ask anything that you would like to discuss.

What is the process of accessing a service?

Accessing a service will happen through a referral process. Some services allow for a young person, or their parents or carers, to make a self-referral, either by telephoning or emailing the service or by enquiring at the service direct.

If a service does not offer a self-referral process, the referral would have to be made by a professional, such as a social worker, teacher or GP, who the young person may have to talk to, to explain their difficulties, and then ask them to make the referral on their behalf.

How long will it take to be seen?

Accessing support from CAMHS can differ depending on where you live within the UK and the waiting list to be seen for that area.  There is usually a short wait to be seen for an initial assessment but then you may have to wait weeks or months to actually start receiving support. 

Once a referral has been made to a service, we would recommend that you contact them to ask how long the wait might be. If help is not immediately available, you might want to look at your support network to ensure that you’ve people that you can talk to who are aware that you are experiencing difficulties. 

You can also look at self-care options to help you try to manage your difficulties whilst you wait to be seen. And if your situation changes or deteriorates, then you should go back to the service to let them know what has changed as this may change the amount of time you have to wait to be seen.

Who might I work with?

Who you work with within a service will be dependent on the type of difficulty that you’re experiencing.  A professional trained in CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, might be more helpful to someone suffering from anxiety than a professional trained in another type of intervention. 

A service will talk with a young person to try to understand the difficulties they’re having and then assess what the best treatment might be to help them.  The most important thing is that a young person feels that they have some choice in who they work with and the treatment they receive, and this may include the age and gender of the person you work with.

How much say should you have in your treatment?

It’s important that any young person accessing support through CAMHS feels that their voice is heard in the treatment they receive.  You should be working collaboratively with a therapist to help them, and you, find a way through the difficulties that you’re experiencing. 

This includes being able to trust your therapist enough to be honest and open with them and to feel that your feelings are being heard and respected.