Almost 2,000 young Scots waiting a year or more for specialist mental health care

Almost 2,000 youngsters have been left waiting over a year for specialist help with mental health problems – with the total having doubled in a year, figures show.

At the end of September, there were 1,978 patients who had been waiting 52 weeks or more for an appointment with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

NHS figures showed that the number experiencing such long waits increased from 959 at the end of September 2020 – a rise of 106% over the year.

By the end of September 2021, there were a total 11,816 youngsters waiting for an appointment with CAMHS.

The Scottish Government target is that 90% of patients should wait no more than 18 weeks for such help.

The latest figures showed that almost eight out of 10 (78.6%) of children and young people were seen within 18 weeks.

However as well as the 1,978 who had been waiting from more than a year, there were 1,780 youngsters who have been on the list for an appointment for between 36 and 52 weeks, and 2,858 who have been waiting for between 19 weeks and 35 weeks.

In the NHS Dumfries and Galloway area only a third (33.3%) of youngsters were seen within the 18-week target time, the latest figures showed.

Campaigners raised concerns about a “potential lost generation of vulnerable children” as they urged the Scottish Government to respond to the problem with the same urgency as they have dealt with the coronavirus crisis.

With the Scottish Budget due to be published on Thursday, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) called on ministers to “make the forthcoming Budget, a Budget for mental health for our children and young people”.

An SCSC spokesman said: “For some time we have raised concerns over a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people, whose mental health is being impacted even further by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is more important than ever that children can access the support they need, when they need it, irrespective of where they live.”

“To achieve this there must be a radical transformation of our mental health services, investing in specialist services and with a focus on preventing such problems arising in the first place and intervening early.

“This is a crisis we can overcome, but it will require a similar energy and commitment to that demonstrated for Covid-19 if we are to achieve this and prevent many young people giving up on their futures.”

In the period July to September, a total of 3,792 youngsters started treatment with CAMHS – down by 16.7% from the 4,552 who started to receive help in the previous three months.

Minister for mental wellbeing Kevin Stewart was clear that “long waits for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are not acceptable”, adding it was “encouraging to see progress towards meeting the waiting times target with eight out of 10 children and young people seen within 18 weeks of a referral”.

He added: “We do recognise that performance is mixed and there is more to be done particularly in those areas where there have been increases in the number of children and young people waiting for over a year for treatment – this is why support is being directed to those boards with the longest waits to clear backlogs by March 2023.

“As part of this support we have provided additional funding of £40 million to improve CAMHS this year with £4.25 million directly focused on offering treatment to those already on the waiting list.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA.