Minister announces £4m to recruit 80 child mental health professionals in Scotland

Scotland will recruit an extra 80 mental health professionals to work with children and young people with a £4 million investment.

Psychologists, nurses, allied health professionals and administration workers are being hired to try and reduce the pressure on Scottish mental health services.

The funding announcement coincides with the publication of a review into how to improve Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) that recommends cutting the target waiting time for specialist treatment by a third, to 12 weeks.

The taskforce also suggests stopping young people being referred to specialist care by default, instead treating more in community-based care while giving young people and families more information on mental health services and how the system works.

NHS figures released earlier this month revealed 221 young Scots have been waiting more than a year for specialist help with mental health problems, while there were 197 cases where children with such conditions were treated on adult wards in 2017-18.

Four out of 14 health boards in Scotland met their target of having 90% of youngsters accepted by CAMHS to begin treatment in 18 weeks.

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey announced the £4 million funding during a visit with taskforce chair Dr Dame Denise Coia to The Junction (pictured), a centre providing health services and support to young people in north Edinburgh.

Ms Haughey said: “Across Scotland, talented and dedicated mental health staff provide high-quality care to young people and are seeing more people than ever.

“However our services face a number of challenges, and in particular waiting times for specialist care are unacceptable.

“That is why we are investing an additional £4 million in CAMHS staff, who will be instrumental in supporting new services and reducing pressure on the system.

“We have not shied away from honestly discussing the issues, and appointed a taskforce to consider how to reform services. Their delivery plan is an ambitious programme of work that will inform the whole public sector about how we can ensure young people get the right care at the right time in the right place.”

But when questioned in Holyrood by Tory MSPs Annie Wells and Miles Briggs about whether the Scottish Government would adopt the recommended target for mental health waiting times of 12 weeks rather than 18, Ms Haughey did not commit and instead referenced the new funding.

Dame Denise said: “After speaking to children, young people and families across Scotland, and those working in services to support them, it’s clear that our approach to children and young people’s mental health needs to be transformed.

“Our delivery plan sets out how, with the support of those working in young people’s mental health services, the taskforce can be the catalyst for that change over the next two years.”

Martin Crewe, director at Barnardo’s Scotland, welcomed the publication of the plan by Dame Denise’s taskforce for “placing children’s rights… at its heart”.

Mr Crewe added: “This is an ambitious document which sets out a clear and focused plan for the taskforce to radically change the way we support the mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people.

“Our report on rejected referrals to CAMHS reflected the experience of over 40 Barnardo’s Scotland practitioners across nine local authority areas. It highlighted a significant gap in provision for young people who do not reach the threshold for specialist CAMHS.

“We are therefore extremely pleased that the ‘at-risk’ strand will focus on what supports are available for children and young people experiencing disadvantage, adversity and trauma, as in our experience too often these are the young people who are unable to access specialist support.”

Professor Steve Turner, officer for Scotland at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “Scotland, like the rest of the UK, is amid a mental health crisis so today’s announcement is one that we very much welcome.

“All children regardless of what support they need should be able to access it, so we are particularly pleased to hear that the key principals of the taskforce aim to do just that.

“The Scottish Government has now laid out its plans for improved mental health support, but we need to see the detail. We look forward to seeing how these plans will be achieved, and believe that once implemented they have the power to improve the outcomes of many children and young people in Scotland.”

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