Scots children waiting over a year for mental health care

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Just 0.5% of NHS budget goes to support children and young people with mental health problems despite thousands waiting for treatment

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6th June 2017 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Children with mental health problems are still not being seen by NHS specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) within Scottish Government waiting time limits.

A coalition of leading independent and third sector children and young people’s organisations said new figures once again show the NHS is failing vulnerable young people in desperate need of specialist care.

For the last two and a half years, Scotland’s NHS has been flouting the Scottish Government guidelines which state young people should get a CAMHS appointment within 18 weeks.

The latest figures show that four of Scotland’s 14 health boards – Fife, Grampian, Lanarkshire and Lothian – failed to meet the target in the first quarter of 2017.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) is now calling for action from the Scottish Government to increase investment in and radically improve mental health services for children and young people.

The charity also wants to know why 21% of young people who were referred to CAMHS by their GP were rejected for treatment.

Sophie Pilgrim, director of Kindred, an SCSC member, said: “These figures highlight that four of our health boards were failing to meet maximum waiting times, a clear postcode lottery when it comes to treatment. In addition, 74 of those with mental health problems were waiting more than a year to be seen and we are deeply concerned about what is happening to the more than a fifth of children and young people not accepted for treatment.

“There is a need for an urgent enquiry to ascertain why these young people are being rejected for treatment and what is happening to them post-rejection.”

Research indicates that 10% of children and young people (aged five to 16) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem (around three in every classroom), and 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year.

However, less than 0.5% of the NHS budget is spent on specialist CAMHS.

As well as greater investment in CAMHS, SCSC wants to see renewed focus on prevention and early intervention. This includes in-school counselling, on-demand counselling services in GP surgeries and greater community support generally, reducing the need for referral to pressed specialist CAMHS. 

These figures highlight that four of our health boards were failing to meet maximum waiting times, a clear postcode lottery when it comes to treatment

The Scottish Government set a target, which dates from December 2014, for the NHS in Scotland to deliver a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks from a patients’ referral to treatment for specialist CAMHS. The target should be delivered for at least 90% of patients.

The new figures indicate that of the 4,333 children and young people who started their treatment at CAMHS in Scotland between January and March 2017, 83.6 per cent were being treated within this 18 week waiting time. This is short of the 90 per cent target set by the Scottish Government.

NHS Fife achieved the target for 84.5% of cases, NHS Grampian  for 45.2%, NHS Lanarkshire for 87.2%,  and NHS Lothian for just 47.8%.

Maureen Watt, minister for mental health, said 10 health boards achieving the target is an improvement on the end of 2016 when just seven were successful.

She said: “However, I’m clear that we must continue to reduce waiting times and I will not be satisfied until our target is met sustainably.

“We will continue to work with boards to make sure that happens right across Scotland and the Mental Health Access Improvement Support Team, which has delivered significant improvements in NHS Forth valley, are working in partnership with Boards to deliver sustained improvements. 

She added: “We will also soon commission reviews into school counselling and rejected child and adolescent mental health service referrals, as a foundation for making further improvements.”

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