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Child mental health targets missed by half of Scotland’s health boards

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Just 78.8% of young people were seen within 18 weeks of making an appointment

Half of Scotland’s health boards failed to meet waiting time targets for child mental health treatment, it has emerged.

New figures have revealed that between July and September just 78.8% of children and young people were seen within 18 weeks of making an appointment, well short of the 90% set by the Scottish Government.

NHS boards in Ayrshire and Arran, Fife, Forth Valley, Grampian, Lanarkshire, Lothian and Shetland all missed the target, according to a report from the Information Services Division (ISD).

The figures also showed that of the 7,153 young people referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), just 5,518 were accepted.

We need to radically transform mental health services, with a focus on preventing such problems arising in the first place

Following the publication of the statistics, a leading coalition of young people’s service providers said the figures should be a “wake-up call” for the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), which represents independent and third sector providers, said more investment was needed to cut waiting times and ensure all young people with mental health issues receive treatment.

A spokesman for the SCSC, said: “We know that half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 21. As such it is vitally important that we radically improve mental health services and increase investment in these, with an overall aim of ensuring that children and young people get the help they need, when they need it.

“We need to radically transform mental health services, with a focus on preventing such problems arising in the first place and intervening early to ensure that children and young people are able to realise their full potential.”

The coalition said it welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of an extra £150m on mental health services but said investment in young people’s mental health services should be increased from the current level of 0.5% of the NHS budget.

“Families usually experience months of waiting even before a referral to CAMHS," the spokesman added.

"The consequent delay in diagnosis and appropriate support can lead to a crisis situation for the child or young person concerned, as well as for their family, and the need for costly extra resources to address this.”

Mental health minister Maureen Watt has pledged to work with health boards to improve performance levels.

Visiting the NSPCC Service Centre in Glasgow, she highlighted the report's findings of a 50% increase in the number of professionals working in child and adolescent mental health since 2006.

Ms Watt said: "These figures shine a light on the way that the mental health workforce has been transformed under this government. We now have 50% more staff and almost 60% more CAMHS psychologists in post.

“While it’s encouraging to see an upturn in performance against the 18 week waiting time standard, I will not be satisfied until we’re meeting this target on a consistent basis.

“An improvement team is working with boards who are experiencing particular pressures, and others who are performing well to understand what is working and what needs to change. There are early signs that this work is bearing fruit but we will continue to work with boards to deliver further improvement."