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NHS specialist child services at “crisis point”

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​A leading coalition warns Scottish Government targets won't be met

A charity has warned the Scottish Government will fail to meet its own targets on waiting times for specialist NHS child and adolescent services unless urgent action is taken.

The call from the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) comes as new figures from NHS Scotland show the vast majority of health boards in the country are currently failing to meet a 26-week waiting time target for children requiring treatment from specialists such as psychiatrists and mental health practitioners.

The NHS provides mental health services for children and young people with a wide range of mental health conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, behaviour problems, depression and early onset psychosis.

However the quarterly figures released this week show only five of the 14 health boards have currently achieved the required 26-week waiting time target introduced in March 2013 while only four of the 14 health boards currently achieve the 18-week target which comes into force in December 2014.

Sophie Pilgrim, a SCSC member from Kindred Scotland, which supports disabled children and their families, said: “As a coalition we were already very alarmed at these waiting time figures from some health boards, which compound our concerns and confirm that many do not have the resources to cope with demand.

"It is those children and young people requiring these services who are missing out, the most vulnerable in our society.

We are at a crisis point and high level strategic management is required in order to get a grip on the situation - Sophie Pilgrim

“We are at a crisis point and high level strategic management is required in order to get a grip on the situation. That is why we are renewing our plea to the Scottish Government, urging it to act now before this situation gets any worse.”

In 2013 the National Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists and the Scottish Division of Educational Psychologists published a report which identified the number of trained educational psychologists in Scotland is “dangerously low” and that psychological services in Scotland were reporting a significant increase in demand.

This, coupled with cuts to local authority budgets and the withdrawal of funding for the training of educational psychologists, places that very profession close to a tipping point.

A quarter of educational psychologists might retire in the next four years and too few new trainees are being recruited.

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatry in Scotland said: “We share the concern and will be working with Scottish Government and NHS Education for Scotland to try and find solutions to this worsening problem.”