NHS is “picking up the pieces” of an epidemic of mental illness among children, fuelled by social media, the head of the service has warned.
Simon Stevens urged companies like Google and Facebook to take more responsibility for the pressures they place on children.
It follows calls for social media and online gaming firms to have a statutory “duty of care” to protect children from mental ill health, abuse and addictive behaviour.
Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester, Mr Stevens said Britain’s children were hit by a “double epidemic” of mental illness and obesity.
But he said the health service could not tackle its ills alone – turning on social media giants to do more to protect children.
“We have to ask some pretty searching questions around the role of technology companies, social media and the impact that is having on childhood,” he said.
“This cannot be a conversation that is simply left to the NHS to pick up the pieces for an epidemic of mental health challenge for our young people, induced by many other actors across our economy.”
He also called for more action to tackle unhealthy lifestyles, and said he hoped to see “renewed pragmatism” from the Government in its updated childhood obesity strategy, due to be published soon.
“The average person in this country spends twice as long on the toilet as they do exercising,” the NHS chief executive said.