Vulnerable children are being let down by NHS and Scottish Government inaction on mental health says a charity coalition
An urgent call has been made for action to be taken to improve mental health services for children and young people.
A third sector coalition says the Scottish Government must increase investment as it was revealed that half of Scotland's 14 health boards have missed crucial waiting times targets.
Scottish Children's Services Coalition (SCSC) members have called the new NHS figures a "wake up call" and want a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention.
Action plans to be put in place for those health boards failing to achieve waiting time targets, they say.
We need to look at preventing problems arising in the first place and intervene early to ensure that young people are able to realise their full potential
The Scottish Government set a target for the NHS in Scotland to deliver a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks from December 2014 - and this must be met 90% of the time.
However, the new figures show that across the 14 health boards, just 77.6% of children and young people are being seen within this time period.
Health boards failing to achieve the 18 week waiting time target are NHS Borders (85.6%), NHS Fife (87.7%), NHS Forth Valley (28.0%), NHS Grampian (41.0%), NHS Lothian (57.4%), NHS Lanarkshire (88.9%) and NHS Shetland (22.7%).
This failure mat be underpinned by the fact that just 0.46% of NHS Scotland expenditure is spent on child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
The SCSC has highlighted that if health boards increase expenditure on CAMHS this will not only cut waiting times, but also address social and economic costs of failing to address these.
These costs are well-established as those affected are more likely to be unemployed, homeless, get caught up in the criminal justice system, or are in extremely costly long-term care. In many cases this can be prevented through early intervention.
A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “These statistics should act as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government.
“We know that half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75% 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.”
The Scottish Government said that the number of children and young people being seen by mental health services has risen by nearly a third in the last two years.
However, it acknowledged it had fallen short of the 90% target and said a team led by Health Improvement Scotland is working in some of the board areas with the longest waits 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 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 £150 million 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% 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.”