Chair of young people’s mental health taskforce steps down due to illness

The chair of a taskforce looking into how to improve mental health care for children and young people has left the post.

Dr Dame Denise Coia (pictured) said she had stepped down from the role because of illness, and had made the decision “with regret”.

She stressed the importance of the work of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce, and said she hopes it will go on to provide a “blueprint for delivering a new approach” to mental health services for young people.

The Scottish Government and the local authority group Cosla jointly established the body in June last year amid concern over the waiting times for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and the number of referrals being rejected.

It produced a set of initial recommendations in September, with Dame Denise – a former chair of Healthcare Improvement Scotland – saying then that the focus of work “must be on stronger prevention and early intervention”.

However on Friday, she said: “It is with regret that due to illness I have had to step down from my role as chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce.

“I am extremely grateful to the members of the taskforce for their support and to the many people across Scotland who have given their time so generously to support our work.

“The importance of this agenda cannot be understated and I commend the Scottish Government and Cosla for showing leadership by establishing the taskforce last year. I have very much enjoyed my role as chair and hope that its work to date has set a strong direction for the future.

“I am confident that the next set of recommendations from the taskforce to ministers and Cosla will provide a blueprint for delivering a new approach.

“This will improve support to young people who experience mental illness and emotional distress as well as promoting a culture of mental well-being among this and future generations of young people.”

Mental health minister Clare Haughey and Stuart Currie, Cosla spokesman for health and social care, both praised Dame Denise’s “professionalism and highly inclusive approach” on the taskforce.

They said she kept “the primary focus on improving the mental health of children and young people and the services they access”.

In a joint statement, they added: “We are sorry that due to illness Dr Dame Denise Coia has had to stand down as the chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce and our thoughts are with her at this time.

“We are very grateful for the work she has led to date and would like to extend our thanks and best wishes.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Health Improvement Scotland.