New study examines differences in mental health hospital attendances for children & young people in Wales

26 July 2022

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First published by Public Health Wales on 20th July 2022

The Networked Data Lab Wales (NDL Wales) has shown the potential of linked data in their latest study 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, Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust and Population Data Science at Swansea University, to address key questions driven by local priorities.

NDL Wales draws upon the resources of the SAIL Databank Trusted Research Environment (TRE) to securely analyse de-identified, Welsh health and population data. SAIL Databank’s team of dedicated data acquisition, provisioning and governance personnel work with NDL partners to ensure the availability of key data sources that enable intelligence-driven research.

With a focus on mental health, NDL Wales has also benefitted from Population Data Science centres DATAMIND – The Health Data Research Hub For Mental Health, and the Adolescent Mental Health Data Platform (ADP). These research centres of excellence, led by Professor Ann John (Public Health and Psychiatry), were able to bring expert knowledge to this NDL Wales study.

Speaking about the study, Professor Ann John, said,

“Through DATAMIND and ADP we’re enabling more and more important research to take place which is helping us to understand the mental health challenges faced by individuals, healthcare professionals and wider society. Through our work we hope that more projects and collaborations, like NDL Wales, can benefit from the work we’re doing to develop and curate mental health data so that it’s findable, accessible, interoperable and re-useable.”

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.

The full report can be found here –