Mental health treatment time delays condemned

Young people with mental health difficulties have waited more than 1.7 million days over the treatment time target since it was introduced, new figures indicate.

The Scottish Government brought in a target for 90% of patients to wait a maximum of 18 weeks from referral to treatment for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) in December 2014.

Since then, young people across Scotland have waited a total of at least 1,715,190 days over and above the 18-week waiting time target, according to figures released to the Liberal Democrats through freedom of information laws.

The most recent figures from ISD Scotland on Camhs waiting time targets, published earlier this month, showed 221 young Scots had been waiting for more than a year for treatment.

The figures showed that between July and September, 69% of the 4,239 patients starting treatment were seen within the target time and four out of 14 health boards met the 90% target.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The massive margin by which the Scottish Government has breached mental health waiting time targets for young people is devastating.

“Ministers promised young people and their families that help would be to hand within 18 weeks.

“Now we find the gap they’re missing this by is in the millions of days. That is outright irresponsible.

Alex Cole-Hamilton
Alex Cole-Hamilton

“Well-resourced mental health services can completely transform young people’s lives. They need to be able to access help quickly.

“Eighteen weeks must already feel like a lifetime and waiting months on end beyond that for support puts lives at risk.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said services need to be further built up in the community to reduce the pressure on specialist services and meet significantly rising demand.

He said: “That is why we’re investing an additional £250 million into mental health to support measures such as counsellors in every secondary school, improved training for teachers, and more nurses in schools and counsellors in universities and colleges.

“We are also investing £4 million to recruit 80 additional Camhs staff to build capacity.

“While new waits for specialist treatment still fall well short of our expectations, half of children and young people are starting treatment within 12 weeks.

“Any young person referred to mental health services should be assessed in the period prior to treatment starting, and we expect health boards to provide appropriate support during that period.”