A coroner will write to Health Secretary Therese Coffey with concerns about children’s mental health following the Covid-19 pandemic.

An inquest into the death of 12-year-old Charley-Ann Patterson was told NHS services have seen a “massive escalation” in the number of young people experiencing anxiety and self-harm post-lockdown.

Charley was found dead at her home in Cramlington, Northumberland, on October 1 2020.

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She was bullied and struggled to get mental health support in the months before her death, her parents previously said.

On Friday, senior coroner Andrew Hetherington recorded a conclusion of suicide.

He said he intends to write to Ms Coffey after hearing evidence about “the number of referrals services are receiving from young people with regard to their emotional wellbeing”.

The Northern Echo: Therese Coffey. Picture: PATherese Coffey. Picture: PA (Image: PA)

One witness said referrals from a child struggling with their mental health have gone from one a week to one a shift following the pandemic, Mr Hetherington told the hearing.

He said the reason is “complex, including the impact of Covid-19, an increase in anxiety, body image, OCD, self-harm and overdoses”.

“I will write to Therese Coffey to highlight the concerns I have heard and to see if actions can be taken,” Mr Hetherington added.

The inquest at Northumberland Coroner’s Court previously heard evidence from Ellis Parker, a nurse practitioner with the universal crisis team for children and young people at Cumbria, Northumberland Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the region’s mental health services.

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Since the end of lockdown, the service has seen “a massive escalation” in the number of young people experiencing mental health issues, including “a lot of school anxiety, issues with bullying and OCD”, Ms Parker said.

“During Covid-19 we were really quiet in the beginning. People were trying to avoid services because of the outbreak, then when children have went back to school it has created a lot of issues,” she told the inquest.

Gill Travers, the designated safeguarding lead at Charley’s school, Cramlington Learning Village, told the inquest the number of pupils experiencing anxiety and self harm “is increasing post-pandemic”.

When Charley was at the school, around 36 children were classed as “the most vulnerable” but there had since been “a further 100 or so”, Ms Travers said.

In the period leading up to Charley’s death, she suffered from bullying which took place “overwhelmingly by electronic devices” and was likely to have happened outside school, Mr Hetherington concluded.

Charley suffered with low mood and anxiety related to a number of factors including Covid-19 restrictions, friendship difficulties and “other influences”, he said.

He said it was “of particular concern” that a referral for Charley to the Northumberland early intervention hub after she attended A&E over self-harm concerns had not been made due to an error, but said he is “satisfied there had been a change in process” since then.

Mr Hetherington said it is not possible to say, if these steps had been taken, whether the outcome for Charley would have been any different.

He also said he was “reassured” that the waiting time of three years that Charley’s mother Jamie Patterson says she was given for a referral to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) “does not exist” after hearing from witnesses.

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