The Scottish Government has been urged to increase its investment in and radically improve mental health services for children and young people after new figures revealed that only half of Health Boards are meeting mental health waiting time targets.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) – which comprises independent and third sector children’s services providers – has called for 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.
This call came after figures published by the Information Services Division of National Services Scotland, part of NHS Scotland, covering the quarter from April to June highlighted that only 7 out of 14 Health Boards are meeting mental health waiting time targets.
NHS Scotland provides mental health services for children and young people with a range of mental health problems including anxiety, behaviour problems, depression and early onset psychosis.
The coalition has also called for Action Plans to be put in place for those health boards failing to achieve waiting time targets, with its ultimate aim that those children and young people requiring it should get the help they need, when they need it.
The Scottish Government set a target for the NHS in Scotland to deliver a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks from December 2014. 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 77.6% of children and young people are being seen within this 18-week target. The 7 Health Boards failing to achieve the waiting time target are: NHS Borders (85.6%), NHS Fife (87.7%), NHS Forth Valley (28.0%), NHS Grampian (41.0%), NHS Lothian (57.4%), NHS Lanarkshire (88.9%) and NHS Shetland (22.7%)
Recent research from ISD Scotland found that only 0.46% of NHS Scotland expenditure is spent on child and adolescent mental health.
The SCSC says 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 – such as unemployment or long-term care.
A spokesperson for the SCSC, said: “These statistics… should act as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government as it consults on 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 look at preventing such problems arising in the first place and intervene early to ensure that these young people are able to realise their full potential.
“Many children are identified as having poor mental health and Scotland has some catching up to do in terms of ensuring that child and adolescent mental health is viewed in the same way as physical health.
“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.
"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.”