CHILDREN and adolescents with mental health problems are being seen quicker then ever by NHS professionals despite an increase in referrals.

The child and adolescent mental health service run by Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust had been an area of concern, particularly over waiting times for youngsters with problems such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Figures show that youngsters with non-urgent mental health needs now wait on average only five weeks, with no one in Worcestershire waiting more than 18 weeks for the last 16 months.

More urgent cases are seen within 48 hours.

Referrals to the service have risen by 33 per cent since April 2008. The percentage of referrals waiting more than 18 weeks before being seen was 23 per cent in 2008/9, falling to 12 per cent in 2010/11 while none waited more than 18 weeks in 2011/12.

It is predicted that the service will receive 2,986 referrals this financial year compared with 3,275 the previous year.

Chief operating officer Jan Ditheridge spoke about the improvements at a meeting of the trust at Stourport Sports Club.

Mrs Ditheridge said: “It was brought to our attention it was a service our commissioners didn’t think was fit for purpose and we quickly realised there were some risks associated with that service.

“Over the last year we have seen significant progress. There were a significant number of young people waiting more than 18 weeks. That has dramatically changed over the period.”

The health and care trust which runs the service only came into existence 18 months ago, taking over mental health services from the previous mental health trust.

Sandra Brennan, director of quality, said: “The service is transformed from what it was 18 months to two years ago. I wonder if there is a perception there is still a problem with the service. It’s still in the mind of some people that there are still difficulties.”

The trust changed its leadership of the service and introduced a single point of access for all referrals in July last year.

Referrals have also been opened up to all professionals, including those working in education and the local authority.

This led to a peak of 312 referrals last October.

There are no inpatient beds in Worcestershire so young people are managed by community teams.

If their mental health needs escalate so they can no longer be managed by community teams locally they have to be placed out of county.