The number of children and young people waiting a year or more for specialist mental health treatment has almost trebled since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
New figures indicate that more than 2000 youngsters have been on the list for at least 52 weeks.
At the end of March 2020, there were 695 children and young people who had been waiting a year or more for their first appointment with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
But, by the end of March this year, that had increased to 2012, an increase of 189.5% over the period.
A new report on CAMHS waiting times, produced by Public Health Scotland, stated: “The number of children and young people (CYP) waiting 52+ weeks at March 2021 is at the highest level across the year.
“This is potentially due to a combination of school closures, some CYP not having access to a safe/confidential space to engage in digital appointments, or have a desire to wait for an in-person appointment.”
“We’re determined to reduce long waits for child and adolescent mental health services.”Kevin Stewart, mental wellbeing minister
The Scottish Government has set a target of having at least 90% of those seeking help from CAMHS seen within 18 weeks.
But, the figures show that of the 11,007 youngsters who were on the waiting list at the end of March 2021, there were 5,531 who had been waiting longer than this.
As well as the 2012 youngsters waiting for more than 52 weeks, a further 937 had been waiting for 36 to 52 weeks, with another 2582 on the list for between 19 and 35 weeks.
Across Scotland, 18.3% of those on the list for a CAMHS appointment had been waiting a year or more, figures from March 31 showed.
But, in the NHS Highland area, more than a third (36.9%) of patients had been waiting this long, while in NHS Lothian it was 32.8%.
The figures showed that in the first three months of this year, a total of 4089 children and young people started being treated by CAMHS – a drop of 1% from the 4,131 who started treatment in the first quarter of 2020.
Of those who started treatment in the period January to March this year, 72.5% were seen within 18 weeks.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition said the “frightening statistics” showed why MSPs must make increasing investment in support services a priority for this Parliament.
A spokesman said: “We have for some time 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.
“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.”
“That over 2,000 young people have waited over a year for vital treatment is nothing short of a scandal.”Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour deputy leader
Mental wellbeing minister, Kevin Stewart, said: “We’re determined to reduce long waits for child and adolescent mental health services.
“That’s why we have allocated over £29m to NHS boards to improve CAMHS, with £4.25m to specifically address waiting lists.
“While its welcome that we’re seeing sustained improvement in parts of the country we want to go further and see that delivered consistently across the country.
“To ensure this we are developing a programme of enhanced support for areas where waits are unacceptably long.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader and health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Today’s statistics plainly show that CAMHS services are in crisis.
“That over 2000 young people have waited over a year for vital treatment is nothing short of a scandal.
“We know that the pandemic has had a serious impact on the mental health of our young people – the Scottish Government simply cannot continue to fail them.”
She added: “Scottish Labour is committed to delivering the mental health services that the people of Scotland deserve, including bringing mental health funding to the level provided in England and Wales.
“It’s time for the SNP to stop failing the young people of Scotland and work with Labour to deliver the CAMHS services that we need.”