Third sector groups and charities ask for more investment and radical change for Scotland's mental health provision
SEVEN out of 14 health boards in Scotland are failing to meet the 18 week waiting time target for children and young people who have mental health problems.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), a group of third sector children and young people’s service providers has called for the Scottish Government to increase its investment in mental health services and radically improve the existing framework for children and young people.
Services in NHS Borders, Fife, Forth Valley, Grampian, Lanarkshire, Lothian and Shetland were found to be exceeding the waiting time target for children to be seen within 18 weeks. In 2014 the Scottish Government set a target for 90 per cent of young people to be seen within the time period.
"We need to look at preventing such problems arising in the first place and intervene early to ensure that these young people are able to realise their full potential." SCSC
A spokesperson for the SCSC said: "These statistics, which highlight that half our health boards are failing to meet waiting time targets, should act as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government as it consults on its new mental health strategy.
"We know that half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 21. As such it is vitally important that we radically improve mental health services and increase investment in these, with an overall aim of ensuring that children and young people get the help they need, when they need it.
"We need to look at preventing such problems arising in the first place and intervene early to ensure that these young people are able to realise their full potential.
"As a coalition we are delighted that the Scottish Government has committed an additional £150m in mental health services over the next five years, and that this is to be partly used to bring down child and adolescent mental health waiting times.
"We would however urge the new Scottish Government and Mental Health Minister to act quickly and increase investment from the current figure of less than 0.5 per cent of the NHS budget. This will ensure that those requiring it are given the support they need, so that those children and young people requiring these services do not miss out."
0.46 per cent of the budget of NHS Scotland was spent on child and adolescent mental health.
NHS Scotland provides services for children with a wide range of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, and early onset psychosis. 50 per cent of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 21.
Among the best performers are NHS Borders with 85.6 per cent of children seen within the 18 week target, NHS Lanarkshire 88.9 per cent, and NHS Fife saw 87.7 per cent. NHS Forth Valley however saw 28.0 per cent, NHS Grampian 41.0 per cent, NHS Lothian 57.4 per cent, and NHS Shetland 22.7 per cent.
Taken as an average, it means that across the 14 health boards as a whole 77.6 per cent of children and young people are being seen within the 18 week waiting period, which is short of the 90 per cent set by the government.
The SCSC's call comes in response to the new figures, which were published on Tuesday from the information services division of national services Scotland, part of NHS Scotland, which cover the period of service from April to June of this year.
The SCSC has also called for greater investment in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs), as well as a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention.
Across the 14 Health Boards as a whole 77.6 per cent of children and young people are being seen within the 18 week waiting period, which is short of the 90 per cent set by the Scottish government.
They argue that more counselling in school and on counselling services in GP surgeries would aid prevention and early intervention in ill-mental health.
Additionally, the coalition said that putting locally specific 'Action Plans' in place for those NHS health boards failing to achieve waiting time targets would help ensure children in these areas were not being 'let down'.
SCSC also expressed disappointment that only 0.46 per cent of the budget of NHS Scotland was spent on child and adolescent mental health
The Scottish Government responded to the missed targets, saying that it would assign a team led by Health Improvement Scotland (His), to work in some of the board areas with the longest waiting times to "redesign services and improve efficiencies".
Maureen Watt, minister for mental health, said: "The continued and substantial increase in demand for child and adolescent mental health services clearly show that in the past there were far too many children who were unseen and whose need was unmet for far too long.
"To respond to this we have doubled the number of psychologists working in Camhs. We are also investing an additional £150m over five years, and will be publishing a new mental health strategy at the end of the year.
"I have been clear with boards that any falls in performance towards the challenging 90 per cent target, or children experiencing long waits, is simply not good enough.
"That’s why, as part of our investment, an improvement team is working with some of the boards that are facing particular pressures. Services are being redesigned so that in the future performance is improved."
"I have been clear with boards that any falls in performance towards the challenging 90 per cent target, or children experiencing long waits, is simply not good enough." Maureen Watt
Labour focused on the reduction of staff numbers in key agencies overseen by NHS Scotland.
Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP said: "It’s simply unacceptable that almost a quarter of children and young people in Scotland who are waiting for access to vital mental health services were not seen within the SNP’s eighteen-week target.
"Today’s figures show the situation is getting worse with 338 more children and young people waiting longer than eighteen weeks to be seen than the last quarter.
"Official statistics released today also showed that in the past year there had been a reduction in the amount of full time children and adolescents mental health service staff. It’s a desperate situation, and our most vulnerable deserve better.
"The SNP must recognise that the treatment of children and young people with mental health problems is as urgent as the treatment of those with physical problems.
"The SNP must stop the cuts and invest in vital services by using the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament."
Picture courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde
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