Councillors concerns over Kent’s ‘unrelenting’ mental health crisis

A rise in demand for mental health services for children and young people

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

There is an “unrelenting” mental health crisis in Kent.

Around 15,000 patients are relying on mental health support across the south east of England and London, described as a “significant caseload” by NHS bosses.

Referrals have risen from around 85 children per month in March 2021 to 140 in February 2022 at North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT). This marks a jump of 65% in the last financial year amid the pandemic.

Kent County Council (KCC), which commissions the service along with the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), reviewed the crisis during a public meeting earlier this week.

KCC’s shadow cabinet member for public health, Cllr Karen Constantine (Lab), said: “The growth in the caseload, how are we going to be able to keep pace with that?”

NELFT says it is meeting the challenges and mobilised quickly to manage the increase, which has been described as  “unrelenting” in one of its reports published to the panel last week.

NELFT says more investment has been made into enhancing the workforce and new projects are being created, such as giving help to youngsters growing up with a sibling who has a lifelong disability. The Trust says there is also more counselling access.

Outdoor activities like gardening are being explored, along with art and music therapy, according to NELFT chiefs.

Gill Burns, who is the interim deputy director at NELFT, said: “It can be really instrumental in their recovery, how they express themselves. We actively encourage that as an organisation.”

However, Sevenoaks Town county councillor Richard Streatfield (Lib Dem) described the current situation as a “crisis”.

One Sevenoaks resident ended up travelling to Manchester to get mental health support, he said. The delays gave “considerable” cause for concern.

Cllr Streatfield said: “The requirement of NELFT is growing exponentially faster than it is able to deal with. There are no easy choices.”

New services have been commissioned in the last six months to respond to the increasing demand from children and young people within Kent.

These include specialist bereavement services and emotional support for children as well as a rise in the number of  diagnostic assessments.

Cllr Andrew Kennedy (Con), who is one of Kent’s mental health champions, said he is “worried” about the “hidden demand” of adolescents not coming forward.

Calling for a deeper dive, he said: “My main concern are of young people, particularly adolescent boys, who are the hardest to reach. I fear that stigma for a 14 and 15 year old boy admitting he needs support.”


  1. It’s the consequences of thatcher closing the large mental health hospitals when she was planning to sell off the NHS
    “Care in the community” yet another Conservative policy that has caused serious harm to those with mental health needs. It’s ironic that Thatcher herself died from a mental heath illness.

    • Margaret thatcher died from a stroke. She did also suffer from dementia a disease that destroys the synaptic pathways in the brain and exhibits itself as declined mental capacity. Very different from a mental health problem per se.

      What happened to the time when apprehension, trepidation, concern,stress were seen as perfectly natural responses to situations and helped prevent people rushing into things without thinking. Teachers and employers would identify someone who was struggling with something and show that by breaking the task or situation down into component parts and dealing with these individually what may have seemed daunting is often perfectly manageable.
      It seems that far too often people just don’t want to deal with things, often borne of a reluctance to confront others and explain and discuss. Is the education system just not equipping people with the basic skills? Or is a culture of non confrontation a convenient way of forcing us to accept mediocrity ? Convenient for both sides. Then complain about your mental health and let others sort things out for you.
      Without doubt there are those and always have been who really do struggle, but the numbers being labelled today is both absurd and a sad indictment of the world we live in.

  2. it would be interesting to know how many of these people that desperately need help voted for this current government ?

    • There are plenty of jobs as exhibited by our seemingly never ending need to import migrant labour. But we have too many who don’t place any value on education , see their goal in life as getting as much as possible for the least effort, no pride in achievement and look down on those who do strive.
      In return society has chosen to take the easy option of letting these miscreants do as they wish and fund them in the process, it’s why the social housing sector is full of non working households as against the early idea that social housing was there to help working families.
      When a nation allows too greater a minority the opportunity to lose its work ethic you enter a spiral of decline, we’re spinning down the helter skelter at a great rate.
      14 year old stabbing a 12 year old over posting of video on social media , the 14 year old gets a fidget toy whilst in court, what has the world come to. He can sit there distracted from whats going on rather than have to come to terms with what he’s done. How many cases of young children being killed by their parents/carers have we had on the news this last year? There are those that really shouldn’t be allowed to breed and if they do cost society a fortune in efforts to minimise the damage they cause.

  3. Children’s mental health services: what do you expect when the whole of Kent is now provided by NorthEast London NHS Trust. You would think they have enough work in NE London alone!. Once we had full child and adolescence psychiatry services for every local area in Kent and an in-patient unit for mentally ill children in Maidstone. In Medway for example , we had two excellent child psychiatry consultants with good working relations with the padiatric consultants. All gone. The creeping rot of Thatcherism who hated the NHS.

  4. “80% of the price inflation will n the UK is directly linked to Brexit there can be no Denying that the last time we had anything as bad as this and worse to come was when Ted Health was prime minister.”
    Says Financial consultant and economic analyst working for the Bank of England on LBC radio.

    LC. Having worked in mental health care for 39 years I think I have a good understanding of those who need mental health care.

    • I’ve no doubt you do, but you do you subscribe to the wholesale labelling of every insecurity as a mental health issue? Your 39 years will take me back to my school days, were there really as many with issues then as today? Why have the numbers grown so much?

  5. Kent does not even have a major traumatic injuries unit. The air ambulance which is mainly funded by charity is used on a daily basis to take seriously injured patients to Kings College Hospital London how disgraceful that county of Kent has to rely on London NHS trust for mental health care and trauma and still the voters conveniently overlook the damage that the Conservatives have done and continue to do to the United Kingdom shame on them and shame on anyone who votes for this criminal lead party.

    • How much does it cost to provide a major traumatic injury unit? Assuming there’s a minimal number of highly trained staff needed to run one would it be sufficiently utilised if there was one in thanet or would they be sitting twiddling their thumbs a lot. Would thanet attract staff of the required calibre?
      Having a centralised centre of excellence makes perfect sense when you have the air ambulance that offers fast safe patient transfers to the appropriate facility.
      The only point i’d agree on is the fact that perhaps the air ambulance should be funded by the state, but if it were it’d end up costing 10 times as much.

  6. Plenty of comments about spending on the nhs, a quick google

    In 2005 nhs spending was 184 million per day
    2022 is budgeted at. 521 million per day

    Inflation from 2005 – 2022 is about 50%

    So in real terms we’re spending about 70% more ( inflation adjusted to the 2005 figure) on the nhs. Add on the other billions people pay for optometry, dentistry, private health care, insurance , in 2019 this was estimated at 42 billion.

    The numbers do seem to suggest that cash alone is not the problem.

  7. “Around 15,000 patients are relying on mental health support across the south east of England”

    That figure wont include all the functional / fake patients are not classified as having mental health issues as they refuse to be treated under mental health or simply undiagnosed. And dont think that this is a small number of people

  8. LC, you can try to use figures about how much has been spent on the NHS to convince yourself that the government is supporting the NHS. However when one wants to see a breakdown of where the money has actually been spent then things become misty to say the least. The private companies shareholders that leech off the NHS in so many ways are the real benefactors of the so-called “extra funding” I guess you were impressed that the NHS spent £200 million to buy PPE in the pandemic, it later transpired that the gowns were not fit for purpose and now this week the National Crime Agency has carried out raids investigating where the money has gone one of the raids was at the home of Lady Bra who sits in the upper house in parliament no less. You cannot defend the indefensible by using dodgy government figures.

    • I’m only presenting numbers that show huge amounts are spent on healthcare in this country, where it then goes is beyond my ability to find out. However my real point is that , forever pouring money into a bottomless pit as many would wish would seem pointless without reform, your comments would seem to back this up ( apologies if I’ve misunderstood). There has been privatising of parts of the nhs , one example i know of is in care for the severely handicapped, under the nhs staff had 7 weeks paid holiday, it wasn’t affordable and was contracted out, the existing staff that transferred kept their contracted allowance new staff do not. State services are notoriously wasteful and inefficient, private services are out to make a profit , little more than a rock and a hard place question.

  9. Mental health crises have increased substantially since the lockdown measures and weaponised fear propaganda messaging have appeared over the last two years. Many mental health experts have reported on this, and were censored in the early covid days. All political parties were cowardly in being complicit in this damage, with a few exceptions from a very few brave MPs. It’s far too simplistic to think one political party is wrong and the other is right. They have all failed disgracefully, and if we let the WHO govern future pandemics globally (as they want to) we have given away all our medical and human rights freedoms. That information is all there to research.

  10. There will never be enough money to deal with mental health .. I feel sorry for people who suffer from it .. they must have a crap life ..

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