Meet the team —Dr Bruce Clark, Clinical Director for CAMHS
We would like to introduce you to Dr Bruce Clark, Clinical Director for Clinical Director for the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
Bruce is a Senior Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and an expert in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), leading the Trust’s National and Specialist OCD, BDD and Related Disorders Service.
He is also a specialist visiting psychiatrist as part of the Maudsley Health Team in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Bruce explained this perspective has helped to provide greater insight into the impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health.
“I was struck as I spoke at a conference, which included participants from all across the world, that young people’s experiences are more similar than different across cultures,” said Bruce.
“Unlike the adult workforce whose experiences in the workplace vary greatly, particularly during the pandemic, children and young people in this country have the stability of attending school again, which makes a very significant and impactful difference to their mental health.
“We know Covid-19 has had an impact on mental health but I would suggest we are still only halfway there in understanding the impacts of lockdown and school closures on our young people. Longer term impacts on people’s mental health are not well understood yet.
“In South London and Maudsley’s services, we saw a dramatic drop off in demand during the early stages of the pandemic. However, we are now seeing demand including new referrals rise in certain boroughs and services — but not all at the same rate.
“We are still waiting to see the full impact, and to understand what the short and long-term needs will be for communities we serve. We won’t be able to support everyone at every level of need on our own. Support systems which can support resilience building — schools, third sector partners, faith groups and public health messaging and signposting are all vital to tackling this holistically.”
The construction is underway of the new Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People — an innovative £65m mental health facility for that will be home to world-class collaboration of research and specialist national services under one roof.
Bruce said: “Everyone has been aware of the importance of addressing children’s mental health for a long time. Now we have the chance to make a step-change in how we develop new understanding and interventions for young people’s mental health. It’s a unique and enormously exciting development bringing world-leading clinicians and researchers together day in, day out.
“This is a true partnership with the common goal of transforming care, treatments and preventing mental illness for young people in all the communities we serve. The resulting new initiatives change the course of a child’s life — and inform research and clinical thinking into adult life. This brilliant building will be the centre of a much bigger platform of possibility.”
The NHS Long Term Plan recognises the need for more children to access services and for better support at transition, with more 0–25 pathways. It pledges that an additional 345,000 children and young people aged 0–25 will be able to access support via NHS-funded mental health services and school or college-based mental health support teams.
“Achieving these goals will take some thoughtful consideration and conversations around commissioning and investment and even more close partnership working between us as providers and all our commissioners,” said Bruce.
“Transition to adult services suits some people better at the age of 18. For others, we need to think differently. I certainly would like to see some young people with neurodevelopmental disorders including ADHD and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) staying within a CAMHS-focused service up until the age of 25 for consistency and continuity of treatment.”
The Pears Maudsley Centre forms a major part of South London and Maudsley’s ambitious plans alongside its partners to invest more than £140 million in modern new services and facilities to improve patient care and experience for local people in the next few years.