MORE than 3,000 children referred to Dorset's specialist NHS mental health services have been rejected for treatment in the last two years.

The information, obtained through an Freedom of Information request, has sparked a call from the NSPCC for the government to focus on early intervention to reduce numbers who reach crisis point.

Of the 4,416 cases referred to the Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust in 2016/17, a total of 1,755 were turned away. Figures for the previous year show 4,763 cases referred to the trust, with 1,665 being rejected.

Across England, more than 100,000 children referred to local mental health services were rejected for treatment in the last two years.

The charity is now calling on government to shift the focus of children and young people’s mental health services towards early intervention, to ensure that young people’s mental health does not have to reach crisis point before they are able to get help.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “It is desperately sad to see so many young people facing distress around mental health issues being forced to wait months for assessment by CAMHS, many of whom are then rejected for treatment altogether. This risks leaving them in limbo while their condition potentially reaches crisis point.

“We recognise the hard work of mental health professionals in trying to help young people get their lives back on track. However, too many children who need help are struggling to access support and treatment which can help them to recover. The government’s upcoming Green Paper on mental health must urgently evaluate the early support systems available to young people to ensure that no child is left to suffer in silence.”

Stuart Lynch, CAMHS service manager for Dorset HealthCare, said the trust is "fully committed" to supporting young people struggling with mental health problems, and providing the expertise and help they need.

He said: "However, there are a number of reasons why we may not accept referrals in some instances – for example, they may not meet the referral criteria, or the young person’s needs may be better met by another service.

“We have recently reviewed our own referral guidance and shared this with our referrers in order to ensure the right young people with mental health needs access our services as soon as possible. We also provide signposting to other services and agencies where appropriate, to ensure no-one is left without the support they require.

“Early intervention is extremely important to prevent mental health problems becoming more acute, and we are working with partner agencies to put more focus on this.”