Mental health care crisis for Scots children due to ‘unacceptable’ waiting times

More than 5,000 children and young people in need of mental health care endured a wait of more than 18 weeks last year – and 100 waited more than a year for an appointment.

Scottish Conservative Annie Wells. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Scottish Conservative Annie Wells. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

New statistics show that 5,227 youngsters had to wait longer than the Scottish Government’s target for a specialist appointment, a rise of 1,650 from 2017.

Just 72 per cent of young people seeking treatment were seen within the 18 weeks, down from 77.5 per cent the previous year – and well below the government’s target of 90 per cent.

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Children’s campaigners and opposition parities said the figures, published yesterday by ISD Scotland, were proof of a mental health waiting times crisis.

Scottish Conservative mental health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “These waiting times are utterly unacceptable, forcing children to wait far too long for essential mental health services. This utterly exposes the empty promises of the SNP and their failure to substantially improve these vital services.”

She added: “The SNP must urgently improve access to services and ensure that all children get speedy and appropriate diagnosis. Anything less is failing children and families.”

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP, said: “Thousands of young people have been failed in their hour of need.

“It is a national scandal that 5,227 children and young people had to wait longer than the four and half months target for mental health treatment.

“Looking after the mental health and wellbeing of Scotland’s children and young people should be a national priority, but these figures show it is clearly not being treated as such by the SNP government.”

And Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, added: “This shouldn’t be happening two years after the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy. This is a crisis and people have every right to demand better.”

Only five of Scotland’s 14 regional NHS boards met the target of having 90 per cent of patients received an appointment within 18 weeks for October to December last year – with NHS Grampian achieving a low of 41.1 per cent.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, which brings together care providers from the voluntary and independent sector, said: “These latest waiting time figures highlight that fact we are continuing to fail thousands of children and young people with mental health problems.”

The figures also showed that of the 453 children and young people who received inpatient treatment in 2017-18, 198 were placed in an adult psychiatric ward.

Mental health minister Clare Haughey said: “There has been a 7 per cent increase in the number of children and young people accessing these services compared to the previous quarter and up 12 per cent compared to the same time last year. Our £250 million package of measures will help see more children and young people get the support they need in the community, rather
in the acute CAMHS settings.”