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by Louise Wilson
29 December 2021
Hundreds of children waiting two years for mental health support

Hundreds of children waiting two years for mental health support

Hundreds of young people in Scotland have been stuck on waiting lists for mental health support for more than two years.

The majority of children facing a delay of over 24 months live in the NHS Lothian health board area, where 358 of them are waiting.

A further 30 are waiting in NHS Highland and four in NHS Lanarkshire.

The Scottish Government said it was “determined to further improve things” and pointed to improvements in the number of young people being seen within the waiting time target.

The figures were released under a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Scottish Lib Dems.

It also revealed one patient in NHS Ayrshire and Arran had been waiting for 919 days for treatment (though the health board was unable to provide a breakdown of waits beyond 12 months).

And a patient in NHS Grampian who finally received treatment this year had been waiting 2,534 days – almost seven years.

The national waiting time target is to have 90 per cent of young people seen within 18 weeks of referral to specialist services.

The most recent data from Public Health Scotland found only 78.6 per cent of them were seen in that time in the three months ending in September – though this is up from 60.6 per cent in the same quarter of 2020.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton described the figures as a “shocking catalogue of failures”.

He said: “If your child breaks their arm, you would expect them to be seen the same day but if they come forward with a mental health condition their wait can last for years.”

He called on the Scottish Government to create a timeline to meet the backlog of cases, backed by more cash and resources to mental health services.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, an alliance of providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, has also said there needs to be an increase in resources to help the "beleaguered" services.

It  called for a "radical transformation" of mental health support to focus on early intervention to prevent CAMHS referrals in the first place. 

A spokesperson said: “The fact that we have hundreds of young people waiting more than a year for CAMHS is nothing short of a national disgrace. For a child, as these figures indicate, to be languishing on a waiting list for approaching seven years is truly shocking. Behind all these figures it must be remembered is a vulnerable individual and their family seeking support.

“This situation is worsening as the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic becomes clearer, with our young people experiencing increased levels of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm. The impact of poor mental health on the lives of our children and young people cannot be underestimated, and in many cases if not addressed continue into adulthood."

Mental health Minister Kevin Stewart said such waits were “not acceptable”.

He added: “We are determined to further improve things, particularly in those areas where there have been increases in the number of children and young people waiting for over a year for treatment.

“This is why dedicated support is being directed to those boards with the longest waits to clear all backlogs by March 2023.

“As part of this support, we have provided additional funding of £40m to improve CAMHS this year, with £4.25m directly focused on offering treatment to those already on waiting lists.”

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