A patient has waited more than eight years for mental health therapy – while others from 10 Scottish health boards have not started treatment in more than a year, data shows.
Figures released by the Scottish Liberal Democrats show patients in NHS Highland, Lothian and Tayside are currently waiting more than 1,000 days for psychological therapies – with the longest wait in the Highland health board area reaching 3,019 days.
An NHS Highland spokesman said the case is an “outlier” across the health board.
In Tayside, a patient has waited 1,024 days – almost three years – for the treatment, which can include cognitive behaviour therapy.
In NHS Lothian, a patient has waited between 265 and 280 weeks – the equivalent of 1,855 to 1,960 days, which is around five years.
NHS Tayside’s longest wait is 1,989 days, which is almost five-and-a-half years.
Just three health boards – Borders, Lanarkshire and Orkney – have waits under one year, with a 72-day wait the longest experienced in the latter.
NHS Forth Valley did not provide figures.
Meanwhile, the figures also show 220 people waited more than two years to start psychological therapy in NHS Lothian, while 69 in NHS Highland are still waiting more than two years later.
Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “I do not understand how nationalist ministers can hear stories of people in mental torment and respond with budget cuts and inaction.
“If people are put on hold for years on end, their mental state will simply deteriorate.
“The SNP Government is showing contempt for all those struggling. Last winter, they cut a staggering £50m, a reckless move, that was swiftly followed by Humza Yousaf breaking his personal commitment to clear waiting lists by the spring.
“Now they are cutting a further £30m.
“In recent years, Scottish Liberal Democrats have led the Parliament in declaring a mental health crisis, against the wishes of the Government.
“We’ve set out detailed plans for ensuring everyone has access to comprehensive mental health support, including training more professionals in key roles, from psychiatrists to mental health officers.”
A spokesman for NHS Highland said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases, however, this is an outlier for waiting times in Highland.
“There can be reasons why any individual may remain on a single waiting list while other priority treatments are undergone. Waiting times for psychological therapy have been improving for Highland patients due to further investment and redesign of patient pathways and are considerably lower than what is quoted.
“We hope that trajectory continues to improve despite the workforce shortages we can often face in supporting the mental health of our patients.”
Mental wellbeing minister Maree Todd said: “More than £1.3bn will support mental health services, with £290.2m direct investment – more than double that in 2020/21 – enabling record numbers of staff to provide more varied support and services to a larger number of people than ever before.
“Long waits for treatment are not acceptable and we are committed to meeting the standard that 90% of patients begin treatment within 18 weeks of referral.
“Half of people referred for psychological therapies start treatment within three weeks thanks to the hard work of a growing workforce and record investment. Performance still varies across the country, and we continue to provide tailored support to those boards that need it.”
An NHS Tayside spokeswoman said: “The performance for Psychological Therapies in Tayside against the 18-week referral to treatment performance improved from 70.9% in September to 71.5% in October 2023.
“Approximately half of the specialties within the service meet the national target of 90% and are expected to continue to do so.
“In the specialties that do not meet the target, there has been a disproportionate workforce shortage, which is not unique to Tayside and reflects the national picture.
“The service continues to pursue all attempts to increase service capacity through recruitment and through continued commissioning of external service provision and focusing on service improvement.”
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