(l-r) Gina Tomkins Ward camhsThe specialist children’s team at Epsom and St Helier hospitals is working with mental health advocates to ensure that young people who self-harm receive the best possible care and support.

In the past two years, Epsom and St Helier hospitals have seen a dramatic increase in the number of young people aged 11-18 years old presenting with self-harm – nationally, the number of 10-14 year olds attending A&E departments for self-harm related reasons has increased by 70% in the same period. Lin McGraw, Lead Nurse for Paediatrics, said: “It is estimated around 10% of all young people self-harm at some point in their lives. In most cases people who self-harm do it to help them cope with overwhelming emotional issues.

“Whilst we are committed to improving the experience of all of the children in our care, recent evidence and feedback from the young people themselves has shown that it is particularly important we focus on working with Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and our partners to enhance the care and support provided to the increasing number of young people experiencing difficulties with mental health who end up having to attend A&E.

“To help us do this, we are in the process of recruiting a new Mental Health Liaison Nurse for our hospitals, whose role will focus on improving patient experience, quality and the efficiency of care received by children and young people alongside education for all staff within the team.”

The Trust also has a number of initiatives in place to ensure we continue to provide safe, compassionate and effective care, many of which were developed in partnership with children and young people. Lorna Bramwells, Head of Neonatal and Children’s Nursing, explained: “We are very lucky to have been working closely with a group of youth advisors (CYA), a network of 250 young people who all have experience of accessing mental health services in Surrey. The group meets regularly with the aim of ensuring children and young people who use the mental health services have a voice through being involved in recruitment, staff training and service development amongst other things.

“CYA have helped us develop a number of initiatives which we hope will help us to improve young people’s experiences as they attend A&E or a ward. The group delivered two very successful sessions in September and October of last year to staff through a variety of engaging activities and the sharing of real life experiences. The young people encouraged the staff to see their journey through their eyes.

“Our patient experience team have also developed the ‘boredom buster’ – an activity booklet which includes a number of mindfulness activities. It is currently being trialled on both Casey Ward at Epsom Hospital and on the Children’s Ward at Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children.

“We are proud of the developments we have made alongside our partners such as CAMHS and CYA to improve the experiences for our young people and we look forward to continuing to work with CAMHS and children and young people across the area to make sure we get it right – it’s so important that people who experience or are affected by mental health issues know that support is available.”

To find out more about CYA, visit www.healthysurrey.org.uk/your-health/mental-wellbeing/camhs/children-and-young-people/cya/.