Transition in the NHS Long Term Plan

Our lead for transition, Catherine Goodall describes here her initial thoughts on the NHS Long Term Plan.

The transition to adulthood for any young person can be challenging time, and for young people with additional health needs and disabilities it can be very complex. It’s really important that care and support for young people is well coordinated and meets their needs. We know that transition has long been a key challenge across a wide range of services, but particularly within health. It is therefore great to see transition highlighted in the new NHS Long Term Plan.

Young people were involved in a range of workshops and events to share what they most wanted to see in the plan. It’s fantastic to see that the plan mentions transition at several points, the first talking about a new approach to young adult mental health services. We know that mental health is a massive issue for young people around transition age, and often the support needed isn’t available. This means that many young people end up in crisis situations, and present at A and E or other emergency services. This can add to their distress, lead to worse outcomes and is a huge cost to the NHS.

These current gaps in services for young people transitioning to adulthood are explained, and the plan details an ambition to offer a comprehensive 0-25 mental health service. This model aims to provide an integrated approach across health, social care, education and the voluntary sector. The aims of the legislative reforms in SEND in 2014 (under the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Care Act 2014) were to create a coordinated, joined up system for children, young people and families. It is encouraging to see the NHS is committed to realising these aims and integrating services for families.

It is interesting that the plan specifically focuses on Higher Education services, and that NHS England will work with Universities UK to support Universities to improve student welfare. It is great to see that students in Higher Education will receive more support, as starting University can be a daunting time and many students struggle with mental health problems whilst studying. Hopefully the ambition to create a broader 0-25 service will capture the young people who need support but are not accessing Higher Education.

The plan also describes an ambition to “move towards service models for young people that offer person-centred and age appropriate care for mental and physical health needs, rather than an arbitrary transition to adult services based on age not need”, by 2028. Whilst this is a brilliant aim, there is no detail provided on how it will be enacted. For such significant changes to be effective a clear, achievable plan of action must be created. We look forward to the developments on this commitment, and as always hope that children, young people, families and practitioners are involved in their design and implementation.

You can read more about the NHS Long Term Plan on our website here.