Almost three-quarters (73.2 percent) of local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are failing to meet NHS England targets for improving children and young people’s mental health services (CAMHS), shows a new analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

The report, which is based on data from NHS England’s Mental Health Five Year Forward View Dashboard (which provides key indicators of performance on mental health across the country), also shows that just 31.6 percent of CCGs had a fully funded plan to improve crisis care, while 10.5 percent of CCGs had no agreed plan or funding set out.

Furthermore, according to government policy no one under the age of 18 should be treated on an adult ward, and yet, over the reporting period, 2,654 nights were spent by a child on an adult ward, which represents a jump of over a third in just three months.

The analysis also indicated huge variation in CCGs’ annual spend on child mental health services; those in the top quarter spend over £52 per capita, while those in the bottom quarter just £23 or less per capita, which, the Institute notes, “seems to be evidence of a postcode lottery in care”.

The authors say there are four key areas in need of progress: retaining a focus on service improvement across the country over the five-year transformation period; ensuring every CCG has a clear and funded plan to improve crisis care; reducing the number of children being treated in adult wards; and addressing the wide variation in planned spending across the country, including ensuring that every area increases their investment in line with their share of the £1.4 billion additional funding announced with Future in Mind.

In an article published by The Huffington Post, Emily Frith, director of mental health at the EPI, said the findings demonstrate “just how far there is to go until there is true equality for mental health in the NHS.

“The government has pledged additional investment. For that to make a difference there needs to be a sustained focus on ensuring that funding reaches the frontline and is accompanied by clear plans to improve services at every level of the NHS and in every area.

Mental Health Network chief executive Sean Duggan said the report “highlights the need for urgent action to overcome obstacles that are making it harder to transform mental health services and improve care for children.

“Children’s mental health services are among the frontrunners in modernising care but they face growing pressure, so they need more of the promised - and welcome - government funding as soon as possible,” he noted, adding: “children and young people’s mental healthcare is quite simply underfunded at a time when this age group is suffering from rising mental health problems.”