Kids face long wait for mental health treatment

MORE than a fifth of children suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health problems are being forced to endure agonising waits for treatment as health boards fail to meet waiting time targets.

Dr Richard Simpson said figures were a national disgrace. Picture: Esme Allen

The latest statistics reveal that 78.9 per cent of under-18s needing children and adolescent mental health services were seen within the Scottish Government’s 18-week target during the first quarter of 2015.

Ministers have ordered health boards to see 90 per cent of patients within the time limit, replacing a previous target of 26 weeks.

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The figures published yesterday by ISD Scotland show that 83 per cent of adults were treated within 18 weeks of referral.

These statistics are a “national scandal”, according to Dr Richard Simpson MSP, Labour’s public and mental health spokesman.

Dr Simpson, a psychiatrist with more than 20 years’ experience, said: “These figures are a national scandal and represent the SNP’s failure to get mental health waiting times under ­control.

“The SNP have been completely behind the curve on mental health services and the problems are becoming evident now.

“I know from my own experience as a practitioner that the longer vulnerable patients, especially children, wait for treatment in mental health services, the more likely it is their condition will worsen.”

Vulnerable patients also face a postcode lottery, as young people in Lothian have average waits of 17 weeks, which is nearly three times longer than patients in Glasgow.

Health boards in Fife, Forth Valley, Grampian, Lothian, Shetland and Tayside failed to meet the 18-week target, while Lothian, Forth Valley and Tayside even missed the 26-week limit.

The government announced an extra £85 million of funding for mental health on Sunday which it hopes will slash rising waiting times.

Workforce levels have risen by 45 per cent since 2008 and more than £16m has been invested specifically in developing the workforce since 2009. In addition, there are 64 more applied psychologists working in adult services compared with last year.

Jamie Hepburn, minister for sport, health improvement and mental health, said: “We have already invested a significant amount in mental health services, leading to record levels of specialists. The £100m fund we have recently announced will be key when it comes to making the further improvements we need. Through this, we will be able to extend capacity, improve access to services and promote innovation and new ways of treating people.”