Mental health services for children and young adults have been severely impacted by a shortage of available clinicians, according to one health board
Data received under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) show that the child waited 1,185 days before receiving assistance in the years 2022–2023, which is more than 150 weeks longer than the intended waiting time.
It comes in the midst of worries about the availability of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in Scotland.
More than 180 young people in Scotland had to wait more than two years before they could receive mental health treatment, according to the Scottish Liberal Democrats, while more than half of Scotland’s health boards allowed kids to begin receiving support in the previous fiscal year after a comparable wait.
The FOI also revealed that, as of June 8 of this year, another youngster in NHS Lanarkshire had been on a waiting list for 1,073 days.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the leader of the Lib Dems, called the statistics “abysmal” and said they should “weigh heavily” on Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.
Mental wellbeing minister Kevin Stewart admitted the wait times were “unacceptable,” adding staff were “working hard to clear backlogs”.
Cole-Hamilton said: “It is shocking to learn that children and young people are waiting three years to be seen for the mental health treatment they need. This must feel like a lifetime.
“For years, this SNP Government has told us about their commitment to mental health but there is very little evidence that this is anything other than bluster.
“Staff are doing their best but there is nowhere near enough resources or early interventions.”
“90% of kids who are referred to mental health services must be seen within an 18-week window” according to Scottish Government standards.
Only 68.4% of respondents met that requirement in the quarter ending in June 2022, the last for which data are available; this represents a drop of almost 5% from the results of the previous quarter.
A spokesperson for NHS Borders said delays were being “compounded” by a lack of suitable CAMHS clinicians.
They added: “We have and continue to work hard to improve our waiting times.
“We are actively recruiting nurses. Once these posts have been filled we will reduce our waiting list and waiting times significantly, focussing on those who have been waiting the longest first.”
Figures from Public Health Scotland did however show the number of young people starting treatment with CAMHS increased by 13.5% on the previous year.
Stewart said: “Long waits are unacceptable and boards are working hard to clear backlogs to see those who have waited the longest first.
“There has been an 8.6% decrease in those waiting over 18 weeks since the last quarter. We invested £40m in CAMHS in 2021/22, with £4.25m of that allocation directly focussed on offering treatment to those already on CAMHS waiting lists.”
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