Young people denied mental health support by system, reports Audit Scotland
Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey pledges to adopt all recommendations from Audit Scotland and the Accounts Comission
Clare Haughey - Scottish Government
Young people are being denied mental health support because of patchy provision of preventative support and long waits for specialist care, according to a public spending watchdog.
Audit Scotland reported a 22 per cent increase in the number of children being referred for specialist mental health treatment in the last five years, but there has also been a 24 per cent increase in rejected referrals.
Waiting times for treatment have increased, with 26 per cent waiting longer than 18 weeks.
Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission said children may receive “little or no support or advice” while they are waiting for treatment.
Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey admitted the situation was “unacceptable”.
The report suggests services focus far too much on specialist services and responding to crisis, despite government commitments on early interventions.
Recommendations include more cross-sector working and better training for teachers in understanding mental health.
Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General, said: "The mental health system is complex and fragmented, making it difficult for children, young people and their families to get the support they need.
“Improving mental health and wellbeing is a public health priority for the Scottish Government. For this to happen, a step change is required in the way services respond to the needs of children and young people.”
Graham Sharp, chair of the Accounts Commission, the local government watchdog, said: "No single organisation can address all the issues raised in this report, and we now need to see government, integration authorities, councils, NHS boards and others work together with children and young people to start bringing about change.
“That process will benefit from a much clearer understanding of how our young people are accessing existing services and what difference is being made to their lives.”
The Scottish Government now faces calls to put its theories on prevention into practice.
Haughey said she would accept the recommendations “in full”.
“I have been clear that this is unacceptable and that we must look at making the changes necessary to ensure young people get the care they need and deserve,” she told MSPs.
Theresa Fyffe, Scotland director for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “There is a pressing need to ensure children and young people can access the right care when and where they need it. And while it’s right that specialist services have received investment, we can no longer ignore the lack of focus on early intervention and prevention, which could help stop many children and young people needing specialist services in the longer term.
“The recruitment of extra school nurses, recently announced by Scottish Government, with a revised role to include mental health and wellbeing, should make a difference in in this area in the longer term, providing they get the training they need.
“But the current 3.3 per cent vacancy rate for nursing staff working in children and young people's mental health services is undermining the high quality of care staff in post provide every day. These posts need to be filled urgently so we have the right number of staff with the right skills to begin to meet the increasing demand for services.”
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