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Wednesday, 07 September 2016

SNP urged to get to grips with 'crisis' in CAMHS as waiting list almost trebles

Written by The Press Association

The number of children and young people waiting more than a year for specialist help with mental-health problems has almost trebled, according to new figures.

Of those starting treatment in the period April and June 2016, 147 had been on a waiting list for more than 12 months, up from 52 in the previous quarter.

The Scottish Government has set the target of people waiting a maximum of 18 weeks for treatment after being referred to specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Of the 4,642 children and young people who began treatment in April to June, 77.6% were seen within the target time, down from 84.4% in the first three months of 2016, according to NHS figures.

Liberal Democrats said the statistics showed a "crisis" in CAMHS and that it is time the Scottish Government "got to grips with the challenges" the sector is facing.

Separate statistics showed more adults with mental-health problems are also waiting longer for psychological therapies.

There were 12,779 patients who started such treatment in April to June, with 81.2% of them having been seen within 18 weeks.

That is down slightly from 82.8% from the first quarter of 2016 and shows the target of having 90% of people starting to receive help within 18 weeks has not been met.

In NHS Forth Valley just over half (53.9%) of patients starting their treatment did so within the target time while in NHS Grampian the target was met for two-thirds (66.3%) of people.

Meanwhile, only 28% of children and young people in NHS Forth Valley began their treatment within 18 weeks, the latest figures showed, the lowest of any mainland health board, while in NHS Shetland the proportion was 22.7%.

Across Scotland, the figures for CAMHS show a slight improvement from 12 months ago, with 76.7% of those who began treatment in April to June 2015 being seen within the target time.

Mental health minister Maureen Watt said: "The continued and substantial increase in demand for child and adolescent mental health services clearly show that in the past there were far too many children who were unseen and whose need was unmet for far too long.

"To respond to this, we have doubled the number of psychologists working in CAMHS.

"We are also investing an additional £150 million over five years and will be publishing a new mental-health strategy at the end of the year.

"I have been clear with boards that any falls in performance towards the challenging 90% target, or children experiencing long waits, is simply not good enough."

Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "The First Minister was right to appoint a dedicated minister for mental health after the election.

"It is time that Maureen Watt got to grips with the challenges facing CAMHS and delivered the support that mental-health professionals and patients need.

"We need a step change in the way that we treat mental ill-health in Scotland.

"That means more investment, specialist CAMHS beds north of Dundee and urgent steps to finish Scotland's long overdue mental-health strategy."

Labour's inequalities spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: " It's simply unacceptable that almost a quarter of children and young people in Scotland who are waiting for access to vital mental health services were not seen within the SNP's eighteen-week target.

"Half of Scotland's 14 NHS boards didn't meet the standard in the last quarter suggesting SNP Government cuts are impacting on the most vulnerable.

"Today's figures show the situation is getting worse with 338 more children and young people waiting longer than eighteen weeks to be seen than the last quarter."

Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland Tam Baillie said: " Long waiting times for mental health services hold significant implications for young people who are vulnerable and at risk, with some conditions worsening as treatment is delayed.

"While reducing waiting times is an admirable target I would like to see consideration of mental health brought in at every level, with a focus on early intervention and prevention messaging.

"It is the kind of activity that should be included in the school curriculum, supported by mental health link workers or other counselling services.

"Study after study reports younger and younger children reporting feelings of depression and anxiety, and we need to concede that early recognition of this is lacking."

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