Children’s mental health spend in Scotland way below that of England

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Campaigners say NHS Scotland has to double its spend on children’s mental health to avoid "devastating effect"

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6th July 2015 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

NHS Scotland spends proportionately less on children’s mental health care than the NHS in England.

Latest health board figures show north of the border only 0.45% of NHS Scotland’s expenditure is spent on child and adolescent mental health, compared with 0.7% in England.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), a coalition of independent and third sector children and young people’s service providers, says the £45.2 million spend in Scotland is nowhere near enough and is calling on the Scottish Government to take urgent action to increase its spending.

It wants spending on child and adolescent mental health in Scotland (CAMHS) to be increased to £100.5m – equivalent to 1% of NHS Scotland expenditure.

Despite current spending of less than half a percent, research suggests that 20% of children have a mental health problem in any given year, and about 10% at any one time.  

If the situation is allowed to continue they will have a devastating effect on the young people and families involved

CAMHS referrals, for conditions such as depression, anxiety, suicide, OCD and self-harm, have also increased by 35% over the past two years.

Sophie Pilgrim, director of Kindred Scotland, speaking on behalf of the SCSC, said: “As a coalition it is staggering to find that only 0.45% of the NHS Scotland budget is being spent on CAMHS, amounting to just over 5.5% of the total mental health budget.

“Yet we know that one in five children have a mental health condition in any given year and all the evidence points to the clear advantages of early intervention to tackle those suffering and the long-term cost to society of failing to do so.

“We would urge that the Scottish Government looks at radically rebalancing the NHS budget to ensure that we are increasing the proportion of spend on child and adolescent mental health services.”

The call from the SCSC comes on the back of the expenditure figures being obtained from an answer to a parliamentary question from Jim Hume MSP.

The latest revelation adds to statistics from earlier this year which showed six out of 14 health boards are currently failing to achieve the Scottish Government’s 18-week waiting time target from a patient’s referral to treatment for specialist CAMHS.

The SCSC believes that if health boards were to increase expenditure on CAMHS, this would not only address diagnosis and treatment waiting times, but also the issue of addressing increasing number of children and young people being sent to non-specialist units.

The long-term cost to society of failing to treat these conditions is well-established, it says, with many of these young people becoming unemployed, turning to crime, or ending up with long-term mental health conditions which could have been prevented through early intervention.

Pilgrim continued: “The young people who require these services and indeed the families who support them are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and we must collectively look to ensure that they are given the support that they need.

“Demand for child and adolescent health services continues to increase and health board expenditure must be adapted in order to meet this need. If the situation is allowed to continue, not only will the consequences be costly in the long term, they will also have a devastating effect on the young people and families involved.”

Jamie Hepburn, minister for sport, health improvement and mental services, said: “Mental health services are a priority of this government which is why we are investing an extra £100m for mental health services.”