Children’s coalition: Mental health waiting times for young Scots a ‘national disgrace’

Alasdair Clark

Leading experts who support  children and young people have said new waiting time stats for kids mental health care are a ‘national disgrace’

SCOTS children and young people are still waiting too long to access specialist mental health care according to new NHS Scotland statisitics, with most health boards failing to meet Scottish Government targets for 90 per cent of patients to be seen in 18-weeks.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition [SCSC] branded the official figures, published Tuesday [6 June],  a “national disgrace” as they called for a dramatic increase in the funding for mental health provision to ensure services for Scotland’s children and young people which are “fit for purpose”.

Stats showed that three out of 10 children were waiting more than 18-weeks for specialist mental health treatment after being referred, with 35 young people waiting more than a year for support.

The number of children seen within 18 weeks has fallen from 83.6 per cent in the same period in 2017 to 71.2 per cent from January-March this year, with service demand remaining static.

SCSC, made up of independent and third sector groups who support young Scots, are calling for increased government funding for the specialist Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service [CAHMS], which currently accounts for only 0.48 per cent of NHS spending at just over £54m.

Read More: ‘Losing faith’: the mental health crisis facing young Scots 

The Scottish Government expects health boards to see at least 90 per cent of patients within 18-weeks, but 11 out of 14 Scottish health boards failed to meet their obligations. One of the worst performing, NHS Tayside, only met the target for 40 per cent of patients.

SCSC said the variation in waiting times also highlighted the “postcode lottery” for young people accessing CAHMS.

The campaign group said NHS Scotland was “cracking at the seams” as it struggled to deal with the upsurge in children and young people sufferring with mental health illnesses, with estimates showing up to three children in every classroom had a diagnosable mental health problem.

As well as increasing financial support for CAHMS, SCSC said the Scottish Government could reduce pressure on the service by increasing the availability of preventative and early intervention services in the community, such as school-based counselling services and greater community level support.

A spokesperson for SCSC said the Scottish Government should keep pace with mental health investment in the rest of the UK: “These latest waiting time figures demonstrate that we are continuing to fail many of our children and young people with mental health problems, which is a national disgrace. No longer can mental health be viewed as a ‘Cinderella’ service and we must put money behind the rhetoric if we are to just keep pace with investment south of the border.

“It is clearly disappointing to note these newly released figures highlighting that the NHS in Scotland are failing to meet what is already a lengthy waiting time. This is no coincidence given that a very small proportion of the overall NHS and mental health budget is being spent on addressing the needs of children and young people.

Read More: Could trade unions have the answer to poor mental health? 

“There must be a radical transformation of our mental health services, with a focus on preventing such problems arising in the first place and intervening early.

“With mental health and the issues associated with it representing one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, we must ensure that children and young people are able to get the care and support they need, when they need it.”

Scottish Government mental health minister Maureen Watt said they were committed to improving the situation: “Under this Government, CAMHS staffing has increased by 69 per cent, with 28 more staff in the last year alone. To build on this, we’re working with boards to increase the recruitment of more specialists.
“While the average wait for treatment is ten weeks, many boards must improve their performance and I will continue to meet with those boards which fall short of our expectations.
“Our Mental Health strategy is investing £150 million into services over five years and to help reshape how services are delivered to the benefit of patients. Today’s figures make clear that where provision is embedded in the community, and working closely with the specialist services, that we see the best results. To build on this we’re working with partners, like Cosla, to help improve this community based provision for consistent care across the country.”

Picture courtesy of Pixabay 

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