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New data highlights important differences in mental health crisis presentation amongst children and young people across Wales.

Published: 20 July 2022

The Networked Data Lab Wales (NDL Wales) has shown the potential of linked data, by bringing together data from across the emergency care system to better understand children and young people’s mental health in Wales.

Funded by the Health Foundation, NDL Wales worked collaboratively across Public Health Wales, Digital Health and Care Wales, Social Care Wales, Swansea University and the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, to address key questions driven by local priorities.

The insights generated are already contributing to the evidence needed to inform action, including the support for mental health practitioner posts based in ambulance call centres by The Welsh Ambulance Service, some of whom have expertise in working with children and young people in mental health crisis. 

Alisha Davies, Lead for Networked Data Lab Wales and Head of Research & Development in Public Health Wales, said:  

“By linking data across three acute care services (Welsh Ambulance, Emergency Department, hospital admission) we provide the first comprehensive picture of mental health crisis presentation at emergency health services by children and young people in Wales.  

“The findings highlight important differences in mental health crisis presentation in acute care and highlight the benefit of bringing together different sources of data to help address gaps in our understanding to help inform action. It is wonderful to see this already being made a reality by the Welsh Ambulances NHS Trust.” 

Other key findings included: 

  • The analysis quantifies the consistent inequalities in mental health crisis, with higher rates of presentation in vulnerable population groups including those with a history of substance misuse services. 
  • The risk of presenting in mental health crisis was higher in females, those aged 18-24 years and those living in the 20% most deprived areas of Wales, and those living in more urban areas. 
  • Overall, rates of mental health crisis events were relatively stable from 2016-2019, with a decline in 2020, likely driven by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on mental health and services. 

Whilst this study focused on the acute health care system, we recognise that not all children and young people in need of mental health support are seen by these services. This highlights the need to work across sectors including education, health and care services and others to better understand existing routes to accessing support, and how to best support children and young people’s mental health in Wales in the future.