Public Health Scotland has released new figures showing that almost 2,000 young people are waiting a year or more for children’s mental health services.
The majority of young people (78.6%) wanting to access vital mental health services started treatment within eighteen weeks, shy of the Scottish Government’s target of 90% in that timescale, and half of those referred started their treatment within two weeks.
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Although, concerningly, at the end of September 1,978 patients had been waiting for more than fifty-two weeks or more – a doubling in numbers from September of last year.
The data also showed the number of referrals has returned to pre-Covid-19 levels, with 40,528 being referred for psychological therapies in Scotland, a decrease of 3.5% from earlier in the year.
Call for a Scottish Budget for mental health
Addressing the NHS figures, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading providers of children’s services, has called on the devolved Scottish Government to make the upcoming budget a “Budget for mental health”. The group said in a statement that an already ‘under-resourced’ and ‘overstretched services’ are facing ‘overwhelming pressure due to increased demand’.
In addition to increased investment in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), the SCSC has advocated for a renewed focus on early intervention and prevention to reduce the need for specialist services.
A spokesperson for the SCSC commented: “We are urging the Scottish Government to make the forthcoming budget a Budget for mental health for our children and young people. For some time, we have raised concerns over a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people whose mental health is being impacted even further by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is more important than ever that children can access the support they need, when they need it, irrespective of where they live.”
"To achieve this, there must be a radical transformation of our mental health services, investing in specialist services and with a focus on preventing such problems arising in the first place and intervening early.”
“This is a crisis we can overcome, but it will require a similar energy and commitment to that demonstrated for Covid-19 if we are to achieve this and prevent many young people giving up on their futures.”