The Scottish Government needs to take urgent action to increase investment in and radically improve mental health services for children and young people, according to a coalition of independent and third sector children and young people’s service providers.
The call from the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) comes as new waiting time figures from the Information Services Division of National Services Scotland show that from July to September only 7 out of 14 health boards met a Scottish Government waiting time target for access by children and young people to specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
SCSC wants a radical transformation of mental health services, with greater investment in CAMHS as well as a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention. This includes greater in-school counselling and on-demand counselling services in GP surgeries.
The coalition has also called for Action Plans to be put in place for those health boards failing to achieve this waiting time target, with its ultimate aim that those children and young people requiring it should get the help they need, when they need it.
In December 2014, the Scottish Government set a target for the NHS in Scotland to deliver a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks from referral to treatment in specialist CAMHS. The target should be delivered for at least 90% of patients.
However, the new figures indicate that for the 14 health boards as a whole only 78.8% of children and young people are being seen within this 18 week waiting time.
The 7 health boards failing to achieve the waiting time are: NHS Ayrshire & Arran (85.5%), NHS Fife (86.8%), NHS Forth Valley (51.1%), NHS Grampian (37.6%), NHS Lothian (55.8%), NHS Lanarkshire (72.3%) and NHS Shetland (80%).
This comes on the back of evidence pointing to the fact that only 0.46% of NHS Scotland expenditure is spent on child and adolescent mental health, according to figures from IDS Scotland.
While 7,153 children and young people were referred to CAMHS, only 5,518 were accepted. The coalition has raised concerns over what action is taken to address those not accepted for treatment.
The SCSC has highlighted that if health boards increase expenditure on CAMHS this will not only cut waiting times, ensuring the early diagnosis and treatment of those children and young people with mental health problems, but also address social and economic costs of failing to address these.
This is because those affected are more likely, for example, to be unemployed, homeless, get caught up in the criminal justice system, or are in extremely costly long-term care. In many cases this can be prevented through early intervention.
A spokesperson for the SCSC, said: “These statistics… should act as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government as it looks to publish its new Mental Health Strategy.
“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.
“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.
“We would however urge the new Scottish Government and Mental Health Minister to act quickly and increase investment from the current figure of less than 0.5% of the NHS budget. This will ensure that those requiring it are given the support they need, so that those children and young people requiring these services do not miss out.
“We also need to ensure that those who are not accepted for treatment are given the care and support they need, and the reasons for not providing treatment given.
“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.”