Report to Hertfordshire's health and well-being board highlights Covid-19 pandemic impact on young people's mental health

Eating disorders amongst children and young people in Hertfordshire have increased, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Monday, 15th March 2021, 12:06 pm
Updated Monday, 15th March 2021, 12:14 pm

Data reported to the county’s health and well-being board on Wednesday, March 10, showed that there had been 256 referrals for treatment between April and the end of November last year.

And by the end of this month (March) health officials expect that figure to reach 420.

The increase – significantly higher than the 247 children and young people referred for treatment last year (2019/20) – was highlighted as part of a report looking at the impact of Covid 19 on mental health and learning disabilities.

The photo has been used for illustration purposes

According to the report Covid has brought about societal changes that have impacted on mental health generally – as well as on those with pre-existing mental illness, living with a learning disability or autism.

There has, it says, already been “significant additional demand” for mental health services – with demand expected to grow further.

And modelling presented to the board estimates there will be 107,319 demands to emerge in the wake of the pandemic.

According to the modelling patients are expected to present with conditions that include anxiety, depression, burnout, post traumatic distress and prolonged grief disorder.

And within that it suggests there could be around 2372 healthcare workers presenting with symptoms of post-traumatic distress – with 7717 presenting with ‘high psychological distress’.

In financial terms it is estimated that the cost of the additional demand in Hertfordshire and west Essex could be up to £15m in the next 12 months – and £9m in the following financial year.

And health bosses have contracted a private company – Niche Consultancy – to develop the modelling work and ‘to consider how best to mitigate this’.

The report to the board stresses that the estimates on additional demand are “tentative” and that it is difficult to accurately predict the long term impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the population.

But it points to evidence of an impact on some services – such as the referrals of increasing numbers of children and young people for eating disorders.

Highlighting the ongoing challenges, the report states: “Whilst we have adapted and responded to current changes in demand, the demand is outstripping capacity in a number of areas, particularly for children and young people’s mental health and eating disorders.

“The additional social complexity brought about by Covid has disproportionately affected people with existing mental illness and learning disabilities.

“This has impacted on recovery time and flow through our pathways, limiting our ability to provide holistic preventative interventions that promote recovery and mitigate future crisis.

“We have also seen an impact across the full spectrum of need, and have seen increased presentations through Emergency Departments, and increased A&E Breaches – which reflects the national trend.”