Children waiting almost two years for mental health treatment in Wales

Figures seen exclusively by ITV Wales show that someone waited a year and two months to be seen by a child and adolescent mental health service last year. Credit: PA Images

Children in Wales are waiting for almost two years to get support with their mental health through the NHS, figures have revealed.

Data seen exclusively by ITV Wales shows that the longest wait for a follow-up appointment within a specialist child and adolescent mental health service last year was 99 weeks in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area.

The figures, obtained by the Welsh Conservatives, also revealed that someone waited a year and two months to be seen for the first time in the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board area.

In the same area, someone waited for more than 500 days for their first follow-up.

Leading mental health charity Mind Cymru described the figures as "very concerning" and has called for immediate action.

The longest wait for a first appointment in other health board areas was 59 weeks in Swansea Bay, 16 weeks in Betsi Cadwaladr, 14 weeks in Cwm Taf Morgannwg, 12 weeks in Hywel Dda, nine weeks in Powys and just over three weeks in Aneurin Bevan.

The target time for a patient to be seen for the first time is four weeks.

The longest wait for a first follow-up appointment in other health board areas was 53 weeks in Cwm Taf Morgannwg, 34 weeks in Betsi Cadwaladr, 21 weeks in Swansea Bay, 17 weeks in Hywel Dda and 16 weeks in Powys.

Mind Cymru's children and young people manager Nia Evans said: "It takes a huge amount of strength to reach out for help and it is crucial that support is given quickly.

"The length of waits outlined in this data are very concerning and need to be urgently addressed. Using this data to understand service pressures and inform improvements is a critical first step, alongside understanding whether there is growing need for certain types of support.

"However, it is important not to discourage young people from seeking help as it is often transformational when they receive it.

“Whilst waiting for services, young people and their families must receive support to help prevent further deterioration of their mental health.

“As well as expecting immediate action, we would expect the new Welsh Government mental health strategy to set out how it will improve waiting times in future, for all children and young people in Wales.”

In 2023, 12,342 children and young people in Wales had counselling, with 354 of those accessing specialist CAMHS, Welsh Government figures revealed in March.

In England, almost one million children and young people were referred to mental health services last year, ITV News revealed in March.

Since 2013/2014, the number of children receiving counselling has risen by 17%, according to Welsh Government figures.

Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) offer assessment and treatment for people aged up to 17 years and six months.

They may be experiencing emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. Patients and their families can be referred if they are finding it hard to cope with family life, school or the wider world.

Their local health board is responsible for managing that treatment, but the Welsh Government is in charge of the overall strategy, setting targets and funding.

The Welsh Conservatives have said they are not surprised by the figures, and pledged to make child mental health services a priority if they came into power.

Shadow minister for mental health and early years Gareth Davies MS said: "These figures are sadly not a surprise given the Labour Welsh Government’s record on waiting times.

"It was Vaughan Gething who, as health minister, said that it was 'foolish' to have an NHS recovery plan before the end of the pandemic and as a result, Wales has the longest waits for treatment in the UK.

"Labour ministers have cut the mental health budget by nearly 10% this year - the Welsh Conservatives would reverse this cut to support our young people and to ensure they get the treatment they need and deserve."

Shadow health minister Sam Rowlands MS added: "While the pandemic has put pressure on the NHS throughout the UK, with mental health services far from immune, the uniquely acute situation in Labour-run Wales that we find ourselves in was not inevitable.

"The Welsh Conservatives would make tackling this backlog a key priority of our plan to support our Welsh NHS, by boosting the workforce and spending every penny received from the UK Government for health on our Welsh NHS, not diverting the money away to create more politicians, as Labour is."

Worried about mental health?


  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

  • Papyrus offers support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am and midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to pat@papyrus-uk.org

  • Mind also offers mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

The Welsh Government is currently consulting on a new mental health and wellbeing strategy, which will replace the previous ten-year strategy.

It insisted that most young people referred to mental health services are seen within the four week target time, with health boards having plans in place to reduce waiting times.

A spokesperson said: "We continue to invest in a range of support to reduce the need for more specialist services, like online access to mental health support and support in schools."

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