11 July 2022

New analysis reveals trends in children and young people’s mental health care in Liverpool and Wirral

The Health Foundation’s Networked Data Lab (NDL) has analysed data across England, Scotland and Wales to reveal new insights about children and young people receiving mental health support.

Analysis by local teams including in Liverpool and Wirral, flags three areas for further investigation, nationally and locally:

  • The use of GPs and medication for mental health problems is growing in the areas analysed by NDL teams.
  • A higher proportion of adolescent girls and young women are receiving antidepressants, are in contact with support services and most frequently experiencing mental health crises.
  • The data shows a stark contrast in socioeconomic deprivation, with more prescriptions and mental health crises in the most deprived areas.

The data for Liverpool and Wirral showed that:

  • Adolescent girls aged 15–17 had the greatest number of contacts with specialist mental health services.
  • Among children younger than age 12, boys accounted for the majority of care contacts with specialist mental health services.

Across the UK, the number of children and young people experiencing mental health problems is growing. Mental health services are expanding, but not fast enough to meet rising needs, leaving many children and young people with limited or no support. It also shows that too little is known about who receives care and crucially, who doesn’t.

The report authors are calling for more resources to be targeted at prevention among those most at risk of developing mental ill health. They highlight that general practice is likely to need additional support, as it faces crippling workforce shortages while also playing an increasing role in the management and care for children and young people with mental health conditions. Improvements in data collection, quality and analysis will also be crucial to inform policy decisions on where services need to expand to meet need and reduce health inequalities.

The authors warn that to genuinely realise the benefits of the NHS’s new Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) due to be rolled out this month, the availability and quality of data on children’s and young people’s mental health and their access to care must be improved.

and used more effectively. Under the recent Health and Care Act 2022, ICSs will represent the biggest legislative overhaul of the NHS in a decade. They will be responsible for planning all local services to improve health and reduce inequalities. The analysis will be particularly relevant for the newly established ICSs, providing insight into how crucial high-quality data and analytics will be to improve children’s and young people’s mental health services.

Beverley Murray, Project Lead, Liverpool and Wirral Lab, said:

‘The Networked Data Lab offers Liverpool and Wirral the opportunity to collaborate and develop complex analysis utilising national data to obtain a clearer understanding of the health and wellbeing needs of the local population; informing local priorities, policies, and strategies that in turn inform local service planning to improve health and wellbeing outcomes and reduce inequalities, particularly for our most vulnerable residents.  But there is still more we can do with the support of NDL and our five partners across the UK; challenging the need for high-quality data and access to data not limited to NHS data alone is vital to understand the true need across a system where social determinants drive more than 80% of health outcomes.’

Charles Tallack, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said: 

‘The analysis shows that to improve the mental health of children and young people urgent investigation is needed into the deterioration of young women’s mental health, the drivers of marked socioeconomic inequalities, and the rapid growth in prescribing and use of GP support not just in the areas which took part in this analysis, but across the UK. Children and young people need support for their mental health more than ever, but gaps in data mean that we know too little about where services are most needed.

‘With the introduction of the ICSs this month, there is a real opportunity to address mental health problems among children and young people – but this vital window to support those most in need must not be missed. The ICSs will have access to datasets across primary, secondary, mental health, social and community care which is a major step forward that needs to be used to maximum benefit.

‘We already know that the prevalence of mental health problems varies by sex, age, and socioeconomic deprivation but data on who is receiving support is not widely available and is currently not detailed enough to show the variation by these characteristics. High-quality data and analysis will play a crucial role in targeting preventative interventions, better planning of services and ultimately, improving children’s and young people’s mental health. It is vital that local areas are supported to make better use of data to help inform decision making.’


The full NDL analysis can be viewed here https://health.org.uk/publications/reports/improving-children-and-young-people-s-mental-health-services


About the Networked Data Lab 

The Networked Data Lab is a collaborative network of advanced analytical teams across the UK. Led by the Health Foundation, we work together on shared challenges and promoting the use of analytics in improving health and social care. Using linked data, we aim to understand and solve the toughest health and care issues facing the UK today.

The Networked Data Lab is comprised of the following partners:

  • The Aberdeen Centre for Health Data Science (ACHDS) which includes NHS Grampian and the University of Aberdeen
  • Public Health Wales, Digital Health and Care Wales, Population Data Science, Swansea University (SAIL Databank) and Social Care Wales (SCW)
  • Imperial College Health Partners (ICHP), Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI), Imperial College London (ICL), and North West London CCGs
  • Liverpool CCG and Healthy Wirral Partnership
  • Leeds CCG and Leeds City Council


About the Health Foundation 

The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.



Contributing authors  

Ben Barr, University of Liverpool

Tim Caine, NHS Liverpool CCG

Pete Dixon, University of Liverpool

Matt Gilmore, NHS Wirral CCG

Annmarie Jacques, NHS Liverpool CCG

Karen Jones, NHS Liverpool CCG

Lee Kirkham, NHS Wirral CCG

Beverley Murray, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Jamie O’Brien, University of Liverpool

Dimitris Tsintzos, NHS Wirral CCG.