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17,000 children denied specialist help for mental health problems

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The Scottish Government has promised to investigate why so many children have been denied help from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in last three years

Children who have been denied access to specialist mental health care services are to have their cases reviewed following the revelation that one in five is rejected.

NHS figures show that over the last three years around 17,000 children and young people seeking Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have had their referrals rejected by local health boards.

But, following pressure from charities and a parliamentary question asked by Conservative MSP Graham Simpson, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced an audit of rejected referrals would now be commissioned as part of the Scottish Government’s 10-year mental health strategy.

“All children who are referred to specialist child and adolescent mental health services are assessed on an individual basis,” Sturgeon told MSPs. “If, as a result of an assessment, a clinician did not believe that CAMHS was the best course, we would expect the child to be referred to an appropriate service.

“As the chamber is aware, the minister for mental health will next week bring forward our new 10-year mental health strategy. I am able to tell the chamber today that an early action of that strategy will be to commission an audit of rejected referrals.

“Its findings will help to ensure that children are being referred to the right services and that those services can provide the help that children need.”

Children’s charities have long spoke out about the failing CAMHS system in Scotland, calling for further investment.

Local health boards are supposed to help those referred access CAMHS specialists within 18 weeks of being their referral but many have continuously missed the waiting time target.

Reacting to the first minister’s announcement, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition said it was pleased.

A spokesperson for the coalition, which includes charities such as Who Cares? Scotland and Action for Sick Children Scotland, said: “The findings from this audit will help to ensure that children and young people are being referred to the right services and that those services can provide the help that they need, when they need it.

“It is estimated that 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24, so the sooner we can identify these mental health problems the sooner we can prevent them developing further and also assist in the key Scottish Government strategy of closing the educational attainment gap.”

Barnardo’s Scotland has also backed the call for a review into referral rejections saying there is serious issues with the CAMHS process.

Director Martin Crewe said: "Although waiting times for CAMHS continue to be an issue, it is increasingly worrying that there are significant numbers of children and young people who are not being seen at all.

"These children and young people either go without support or receive limited or inappropriate help. In our experience this can be the result of something as simple as insufficient information being included on a referral form.

"A review should consider how the current system works including looking at the criteria for referral nationally, the process for making a decision and crucially what happens to those children and young people who are rejected.

"The children and young people we work with who are referred and not seen by CAMHS receive some support, but there are many who fall through the net.”

 

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