Child mental health waits worst on record

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Child mental health waiting times were the worst on record between April and June, according to new figures.

Only 67.8% of the 4,664 children and young people who started their treatment during the three month period did so within the Scottish Government’s 18-week waiting time target.

The figure compares with 71.1% in the previous quarter and 80.7% for the same quarter in 2017, and is the worst on record since the target was set in 2014.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats described the statistics as “horrendous and heartbreaking”.

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey admitted they were “completely unacceptable”.

The government set a standard for the NHS to deliver a maximum wait of 18 weeks from a patient’s referral to treatment for specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) from December 2014.

Ministers said the standard should be delivered for at least 90% of patients.

However the latest figures show the 90% target was met by only three NHS Boards – NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Shetland and NHS Western Isles.

Only 34.4% of people were seen within 18 weeks in NHS Tayside, while Forth Valley and Grampian failed to achieve 50%.

Across Scotland, 27% of people waited 19-35 weeks, around 4% waited 36-52 weeks, and around 1% waited 53 weeks or longer.

Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These statistics are horrendous and heartbreaking.”

He added: “There is no excuse for the worst child mental health waits on record.

“They show more than 200 children and young people waiting over a year for treatment.

“This SNP Government is failing a generation of young people who need help and it is having a devastating impact on them and their families.”

Scottish Labour’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “To have nearly a third of young people waiting longer than 18-weeks for vital mental health treatment is a scandal – and, despite all the warm words from the SNP, this problem is actually getting worse.”

Scottish Conservative mental health spokeswoman Annie Wells added: “Care for children with mental health problems across the country is shocking.

“These unacceptably long waits could be causing untold damage to extremely vulnerable people.

Separate statistics show 76.3% of patients waiting for psychological therapies were seen within 18 weeks between April and June – down slightly from 78.4% in the previous quarter.

Only NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS 24 met with 90% standard.

Ms Haughey said mental health services would be addressed in the First Minister’s legislative programme for 2018/19, due to be announced on Tuesday afternoon.

A new taskforce was set up in June aimed at reshaping and improving CAMHS.

Ms Haughey said: “Demand for services is increasing as people become more aware of mental health issues and seek support, and this is a welcome step.

“But too many children and young people are experiencing waits that are too long, and this is completely unacceptable.

“Many health boards are still not meeting the waiting times standard for CAMHS and we have met with a number of them to discuss performance and expectations for the coming year.

“We are supporting health boards with £150 million of extra funding over five years, including £54 million to help improve their performance against waiting times targets.”

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