ALMOST a fifth of children and young people needing access to mental health services in Scotland are waiting more than 18 weeks to be seen, figures show.
The latest statistics also revealed a fall in performance by health boards in reducing the longest waits for youngsters with problems such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety.
Despite current targets being met, campaigners said action was needed to make sure children and young people had access to services as quickly as possible so problems could be addressed before they became more serious.
Figures published by Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland, revealed that 3,300 children and young people started treatment with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the three months to December.
Of these, 90 per cent were seen within 26 weeks, just hitting the Scottish Government’s target which boards have been expected to meet since last March.
But performance fell at the end of last year, While 95 per cent were seen within 26 weeks in July, this fell to 88 per cent in November before rising again slightly to 91 per cent in December.
Monitoring against the tougher 18-week target, due to be met by health boards by the end of this year, found that 82 per cent of children were seen within this time frame in the last three months of 2013, meaning around 18 per cent waited longer.
Performance against this standard also fell from 86 per cent in July to 79 per cent in November before rising again to 85 per cent in December.
Health boards including Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and Greater Glasgow and Clyde all came close to or achieved 100 per cent of young people being seen within the stricter 18-week target in the last three months of 2013.
But others did less well, including Tayside where compliance was under 60 per cent.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: “It is deeply worrying that these figures show an increase in the number of children waiting more than 26 weeks to access mental health services, all the more so given the pledge to reduce waiting times.
“Mental health problems in childhood can, if left untreated, exert a profoundly debilitating effect upon a person’s life chances.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Much work has been undertaken over the past four years to improve access to specialist CAMHS by reducing the time patients wait between referral and treatment.
“This followed the setting of a target which states no patient will wait longer than 26 weeks between referral and treatment for specialist CAMHS by March 2013 or longer than 18 weeks by December 2014. NHS boards successfully delivered the 26-week CAMHS target and are now moving towards the more challenging 18-week target.”