Blog Post: by Sir Norman Lamb, Chair of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Pears Maudsley Centre
4 min readAug 5, 2021

In his 1942 plan, which was to become the blueprint for rebuilding an exhausted nation after World War II, Beveridge talked of the five malevolent giants that had to be confronted — poverty, idleness, want, disease, ignorance and squalor..

As we look hopefully towards a June bonfire of pandemic regulations and restrictions, many recognise that soaring rates of mental health problems and distress amongst our children and young people must be near the top of a 21st century list of challenges in ‘building back better’.

School closures, uncertainty about what the future holds and being cut off from friends and social and sporting events have seen more children and young people referred to CAMHS — a service already over-stretched before the pandemic.

The long-term impact is obviously still un-known.

NHS mental health trusts working across south London and our local authority partners and community groups are listening to what local people are telling us about that.

Around 8,000 residents have shared experiences of what has been is putting pressure on their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of the South London Listens campaign. They have taken part in listening events and shared their experiences and ideas on how to solve pandemic-related challenges in their lives and communities.

We’ve also recently launched a digital community survey to find out how people have been are coping during the Covid-19 pandemic and the issues putting pressure on their health and wellbeing.

The newly-formed South London Covid-19 Preventing Mental-ill Health Taskforce will come together at a summit in June to co-produce a two year action plan. It will set out the steps each partner will take to help individuals and communities recover from the range of problems our listening campaign is revealing.

A cutting-edge child and adolescent mental health centre my own organisation is opening in 2023 will play a big role in responding to the likely increased demand for on-going support.

With building work now underway, planning for the Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People obviously began well before anyone had heard of Covid-19. The need was already indisputable and the investment case overwhelming.

The need had been recognised in several high-profile reviews and strategies and the investment case was overwhelming. The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health published in 2016 set the NHS the challenge of establishing parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

Investment of the type which we and our partners are making in the Pears Maudsley Centre corrects what has always been a false economy.

Around half of adult mental health conditions begin by the time a child reaches 14.

Mental ill health costs the UK economy more than around £100bn in lost productivity at work, benefit payments, healthcare spending and other costs each year. That’s more than double the combined cost of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The Pears Maudsley Centre offers the prospect of innovation in prevention and early intervention — likely to be crucial in meeting increased demand linked to the pandemic.

My clinical colleagues at SLaM provide more national specialist CAMHS services than any other Trust in the country. At the Pears Maudsley Centre they will work alongside researchers from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience — the largest child and adolescent mental health research team in Europe.

That fulfils Henry Maudsley’s original vision for the hospital that bears his name and could turbo-charge discovery and innovation, with new treatments travelling from bench to bedside more quickly.

We want to prevent children and young people from experiencing mental health problems and make sure those that do, receive effective early intervention and treatment.

Research at the centre will address the root causes of mental health issues in children and young people, contributing to long-term solutions.

With our Trust serving four ethnically diverse boroughs in south London with significant levels of deprivation, we are determined that the centre will not just build on our international reputation for CAMHS innovation and treatment. The work will have a particular focus on local communities that can face multiple disadvantages.

We are entering an era of innovation in mental health. For the first time, we have the insight and knowledge to prevent mental health problems in the same way we now prevent many people developing cancer or heart disease.

That innovation — including new ways of working around population level mental health care and embracing the potential of digital technologies — will help us manage the rising demand for mental health support and treatment.

The much-heard catchphrase of ‘building back better’ cannot just be about bricks and mortar and infrastructure. The outcomes of capital and infrastructure projects are what matters. In the case of the Pears Maudsley Centre, the outcome will be more young people entering adulthood in good mental health, ready to fulfil their potential.