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Scotland's child mental health waits worst on record

New figures show worst child mental health waiting times on record. Photo: NSPCC/PA

Child mental health waiting times in Scotland were the worst on record between April and June, according to new figures.

During the three month period, only 67.8% of the 4,664 children and young people started their treatment within the Scottish Government’s 18-week waiting time target.

The figures are the worst on record since the target was set in 2014, compared to 80.7% for the same quarter in 2017 and 71.1% in the previous quarter this year.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats described the statistics as “horrendous and heartbreaking”.

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Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey admitted they were “completely unacceptable”.

A maximum wait of 18 weeks from a patient’s referral to treatment for specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) was set as a standard for the NHS to deliver from December 2014.

Ministers said the standard should be delivered for at least 90% of patients however, this target was met by only three NHS Boards – NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Shetland and NHS Western Isles.

Only 34.4% of people were seen within 18 weeks in NHS Tayside, while Forth Valley and Grampian failed to achieve 50%.

Across Scotland, 27% of people waited 19-35 weeks, around 4% waited 36-52 weeks, and around 1% waited 53 weeks or longer.

Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “These statistics are horrendous and heartbreaking.”

He added: “There is no excuse for the worst child mental health waits on record.

“They show more than 200 children and young people waiting over a year for treatment.

“This SNP Government is failing a generation of young people who need help and it is having a devastating impact on them and their families.”

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Scottish Labour’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “To have nearly a third of young people waiting longer than 18-weeks for vital mental health treatment is a scandal – and, despite all the warm words from the SNP, this problem is actually getting worse.”

Separate statistics show that 76.3% of patients were seen within 18 weeks for psychological therapies between April and June – down slightly from 78.4% in the previous quarter.

Only NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS 24 met with 90% standard.

The First Minister’s legislative programme for 2018/19 is expected to address the issue. Credit: PA

Mental health services are expected to be addressed in the First Minister’s legislative programme for 2018/19, due to be announced on Tuesday afternoon.

This comes after a new taskforce was set up in June aimed at reshaping and improving CAMHS.

Ms Haughey said: “Demand for services is increasing as people become more aware of mental health issues and seek support, and this is a welcome step.

“But too many children and young people are experiencing waits that are too long, and this is completely unacceptable.

“Many health boards are still not meeting the waiting times standard for CAMHS and we have met with a number of them to discuss performance and expectations for the coming year.

“We are supporting health boards with £150 million of extra funding over five years, including £54 million to help improve their performance against waiting times targets.”

If you are in distress or need some support, the Scottish Association for Mental Health are available with advice.

Alternatively, Childline are available 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or you can visit their website here.