Young people ‘waiting too long for mental health treatment’

Young people in Scotland waited too long for mental health treatment in the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People, MSPs have been told.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex-Cole Hamilton criticised the Government’s record on mental health treatment for children and young people, saying some children have waited two years to be seen.

Speaking during a Holyrood debate on the Year of Young People 2018 he praised the initiative, but said he could not ignore that its legacy “could have been so much more”.

Alex Cole-Hamilton
Alex Cole-Hamilton criticised waiting times for mental health services (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)

He said: “If we really want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up, then we have to be better than this and nowhere is that more self-evident than in the field of child and adolescent mental health.

“If your child fell off her bike and broke her arm, you could reasonably expect her to be in plaster by the end of the day.

“If she came to you with anxiety or self-harming behaviour she could expect to join one of the longest queues in our national health service.”

He added: “The 18-week waiting time was established in 2014 but by the end of last year we saw health boards posting the worst waiting times statistics for child and adolescent mental health on record, with some children having to wait as long as two years for first-line treatment.

“In December it was revealed more than three in 10 children continue to wait beyond that 18-week target.

“This remains utterly unacceptable, and for children and their parents it must feel like a lifetime.”

He also highlighted criticism from the international community on some aspects of children’s rights.

Questioned by the SNP’s Gillian Martin if he welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement last year for every secondary school in Scotland to provide mental health counselling to pupils, Mr Cole-Hamilton replied that he did.

Fellow SNP MSP Bruce Crawford questioned if a debate celebrating the Year of Young People was the “right place” for the Lib Dem MSP to raise his concerns.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I do not believe we should try to sugarcoat the record of this Government when it comes to children and young people.”

Labour’s Iain Gray praised the themed year but backed the Lib Dems amendment criticising mental health service waits for children and teenagers, adding: “In access to mental health services we continue to fail young people every day in life.