Extra Early Support Hubs funding welcome, but more needed, warns Royal College of Nursing


The government is providing an extra £3 million to expand the number of Early Support Hubs across the country and reduce pressure on NHS services.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has cautiously welcomed an extra £3 million of funding to expand access to Early Support Hubs for children and young people in England.

The 24 drop-in hubs will provide psychological therapies and specialist advice to children and young people, on issues such as mental health, sexual health, employment, drugs and alcohol and financial worries.

Following the government’s initial investment of £4.2 million in October 2023 to support 10 Early support hubs, the additional funding will see a further 14 hubs increase their service offering to children and young people. A network of 70 Early Support Hubs already operates across the country, run by a combination of volunteer organisations, NHS trusts and local authorities.

However, while welcoming the additional investment, the RCN has warned that the government needs to go further in supporting the mental health of young people and is urging the government to make similar commitments to improving workforce recruitment and retention.

The RCN’s Head of Nursing Practice and Professional Lead for Mental Health, Stephen Jones, said: “The RCN has repeatedly pushed the government to invest in early mental health intervention and we’re pleased to see these calls recognised with additional funding for early support hubs. But as demand continues to rise, this must be one step of many.

“Across England’s NHS mental health services, there are over 13,000 unfilled nursing posts, accounting for nearly 1-in-3 of all nurse vacancies. Shortages like this have real-world consequences, leaving staff unable to meet the needs of all patients suffering a mental health crisis.” Jones urged government ministers “not to become complacent and invest in the nursing workforce which delivers these vital interventions.”

The Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, has likewise urged the government to go further, saying: “Too many children and young people and their families face long waits for mental health and community health services vital for their wellbeing and development.

“We need a more joined-up, cross-government approach with equal national focus on community and mental health services to support children and young people as early as possible.”

The government says that it has increased spending on NHS mental health services from almost £11 billion annually in 2015/16 to almost £16 billion in 2022/23. It has pledged an additional £2.3 billion of funding a year but March 2024, aiming to extend mental health support to a further 345,000 children and young people, “regardless of [their] background or location”.