Children still being let down by a postcode lottery in accessing mental health services
Young people in urgent need of mental health services are being failed across the country.
One in five children and adolescents waited too long for treatment in 2016, new figures have revealed.
A coalition of charities said NHS Scotland as a whole has failed to meet an 18-week waiting times target dating from December 2014.
Last year, more than 3,000 young people waited more than the target time.
Meanwhile, five health boards – Ayrshire & Arran, Fife, Grampian, Lanarkshire and Lothian – are failing to meet the 18-week waiting time target, with many children starting their treatment waiting over a year to be seen and a fifth of those referred are never seen.
However, the Scottish Government claimed these figures are actually an improvement on previous performance.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) – which includes the likes of Who Cares? Scotland and Action for Sick Children – said treatment amounts to a “postcode lottery”and the NHS and the Scottish Government must do better.
It called for greater investment in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “These statistics, while an improvement on the previous quarter, highlight that five of our health boards are failing to meet maximum waiting times, a clear postcode lottery when it comes to treatment.
“In addition, more than 100 of those with mental health issues are waiting more than a year to be seen and we are deeply concerned about what is happening to the more than a fifth of children and young people not accepted for treatment.
“We know that half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75 per cent 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. This includes investing in greater community support and reduces the need for referral to specialist CAMHS.
"As a coalition we are delighted that the Scottish Government has committed an additional £150 million in mental health services over the next five years, and that this is to be partly used to bring down child and adolescent mental health waiting times, but we clearly need to do more.
"Families usually experience months of waiting even before a referral to CAMHS. 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.”
Maureen Watt, minister for mental health, said: “I’m clear that we must continue to reduce waiting times and I will not be satisfied until our 90% target is met. Our challenge now is to ensure this improvement is sustained, and to extend it to other parts of the country.
“In the coming weeks I will be publishing our new strategy for mental health. This will lay out how we will change services over the next decade, backed with £150 million of funding.”