Child waited over three years for mental health support amid huge backlog

Mental health services for children and young adults have been severely impact by a shortage of available clinicians, according to one health board.

Scottish child in Borders waited more than three years for crucial mental health treatment iStock

A child in the Scottish Borders waited more than three years for mental health treatment amid a huge backlog in referral cases.

The youngster spent 1,185 days on a waiting list before eventually receiving support in the 2021/22 year, according to data obtained by freedom of information (FOI) legislation – more than 150 weeks over the waiting time target.

It comes amid concern over the provision of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) across Scotland.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats found more than 180 young people had spent more than two years waiting before being able to access mental health treatment – while over half of Scotland’s health boards had children start their programme of support in the last financial year after a similar wait.

The FOI also found that another child, in NHS Lanarkshire, had been on a waiting list for 1,073 days as of June 8 this year.

Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the statistics should “weigh heavily” on health secretary Humza Yousaf and branded the figures “abysmal”.

Mental wellbeing minister Kevin Stewart admitted the wait times were “unacceptable,” adding staff were “working hard to clear backlogs”.

Cole-Hamilton said: “It is shocking to learn that children and young people are waiting three years to be seen for the mental health treatment they need. This must feel like a lifetime.

“For years, this SNP Government has told us about their commitment to mental health but there is very little evidence that this is anything other than bluster.

“Staff are doing their best but there is nowhere near enough resources or early interventions.”

Scottish Government standards state that 90% of children referred to mental health services should be seen within an 18-week target.

In the quarter ending June 2022, the last for which data is available, just 68.4% met that threshold, a decrease of almost 5% on the previous quarter’s figures.

A spokesperson for NHS Borders said delays were being “compounded” by a lack of suitable CAMHS clinicians.

They added: “We have and continue to work hard to improve our waiting times.

“We are actively recruiting nurses. Once these posts have been filled we will reduce our waiting list and waiting times significantly, focussing on those who have been waiting the longest first.”

Figures from Public Health Scotland did however show the number of young people starting treatment with CAMHS increased by 13.5% on the previous year.

Stewart said: “Long waits are unacceptable and boards are working hard to clear backlogs to see those who have waited the longest first.

“There has been an 8.6% decrease in those waiting over 18 weeks since the last quarter. We invested £40m in CAMHS in 2021/22, with £4.25m of that allocation directly focussed on offering treatment to those already on CAMHS waiting lists.”

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