Scots face ‘unacceptable’ mental health waiting times

MSPs have warned that funding shortages mean the NHS is struggling to treat many young Scots with mental health problems. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
MSPs have warned that funding shortages mean the NHS is struggling to treat many young Scots with mental health problems. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
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Funding shortages have left the NHS struggling to treat young Scots with mental health problems in many parts of the country MSPs have warned.

About a fifth of referrals for treatment of adolescents were rejected last year, an inquiry by Holyrood’s health committee has found. This is despite one in ten youngsters between the age of five and 16 in Scotland having a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, according to the most recent research.

The Scottish Government will shortly publish a new ten-year strategy for mental health amid cross party calls for the issue to be given greater priority.

Health committee convener Neil Findlay is now calling on the Scottish Government to set out how it will tackle the issue after extra funding was set out in the recent budget.

Mr Findlay said: “It is not acceptable that children waiting for mental health treatment have to wait longer than agreed limits.

“There are currently huge regional differences in the provision of mental health treatment for children in Scotland. It was clear from our evidence that existing resources cannot meet the current demand in certain areas.

“This is simply not good enough. We hope that the new strategy sets out how waiting times can be reduced and most importantly how this will be funded. Otherwise more children will be waiting for treatment that they desperately need.”

A letter from the committee to mental health minister Maureen Watt raises concerns there have not been any “significant improvements” in prevention and early intervention work over the past 13 years. MSPs also say they “cannot see the justification” for a continuation of different waiting time targets between mental health and physical health conditions.

The letter added: “While we note the minister is equally unhappy with existing performance across the country, we expect the new strategy and the review of targets to remove the waiting time discrepancy and set out a clear, funded and measurable timetable for the delays to be eradicated.”

Ms Watt announced at the weekend that an additional £10 million to fund more than 30 new ways of supporting mental health in primary care, with ministers committed to increasing the share of the frontline NHS budget dedicated to mental health in 
each year of the current parliament.

Mental health spending will increase to at least £1 billion next year and Scottish Government investment will rise 32 per cent to £52.2m as part of an additional £150m being invested over five years.