Mental health treatment in Scotland branded ‘a disgrace’

Concerns have been raised over lengthy waits for mental health treatment.
Concerns have been raised over lengthy waits for mental health treatment.
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Mental health treatment has been branded “a national disgrace” as hundreds of vulnerable children and adults waited too long to get help.

New NHS figures show that only three of Scotland’s 14 health boards met the 18-week treatment target for adults, while six boards offered appointments to children quickly enough.

Delays to diagnosis and treatment can lead to crisis situations for young people and families, according to campaigners who said the figures should be a wake-up call for Scottish ministers over the state of mental health services.

It comes after recent prescribing data revealed that prescriptions for mental health drugs such as antidepressants and antipsychotics have hit a ten-year high.

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour inequalities spokesperson, said: “The SNP government’s performance on mental health is nothing short of a national disgrace.

“If the missed targets we see for waiting times in mental health were replicated in A&E wards there would be a national outcry. These figures cannot be brushed under the carpet.”

The latest figures showed that only 78.8 per cent of children and 79 per cent of adults were seen within 18 weeks, with many facing a postcode lottery for treatment.

Teenagers living in Grampian might wait 21 weeks to be seen while young people in the Borders tended to wait around three weeks.

A group of leading children’s charities called for radical transformation of mental health services. A Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) spokesperson said: “We know that half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 21.

“As such it is vitally important that we radically improve mental health services and increase investment in these, with an overall aim of ensuring that children and young people get the help they need, when they need it.”

Staff shortages have begun to improve, particularly in child services where the workforce has increase by 50 per cent in the past decade. However more than 100 positions lay vacant.

Mental health minister Maureen Watt said an improvement team had been sent in to help struggling boards.

She said: “While it’s encouraging to see an upturn in performance against the 18 week waiting time standard, I will not be satisfied until we’re meeting this target on a consistent basis.”