Children let down by lottery in accessing mental health services

Date: 22nd March 2017
Category: Mental health

Children are being failed as mental health targets are not met - one in five children and adolescents had to wait too long for treatment in 2016.

A coalition of charities said NHS Scotland as a whole has failed to meet an 18-week waiting times target dating from December 2014. Last year, more than 3,000 young people waited more than the target time. Meanwhile, five health boards - Ayrshire & Arran, Fife, Grampian, Lanarkshire and Lothian - are failing to meet the 18-week waiting time target, with many children starting their treatment waiting over a year to be seen and a fifth of those referred are never seen. However, the Scottish Government claimed these figures are actually an improvement on previous performance.

The Scottish Children's Services Coalition (SCSC) - which includes Who Cares? Scotland and Action for Sick Children - said treatment amounts to a "postcode lottery" and the NHS and the Scottish Government must do better. It called for greater investment in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

A spokesperson for the SCSC said: "These statistics, while an improvement on the previous quarter, highlight that five of our health boards are failing to meet maximum waiting times, a clear postcode lottery when it comes to treatment.

"In addition, more than 100 of those with mental health issues are waiting more than a year to be seen and we are deeply concerned about what is happening to the more than a fifth of children and young people not accepted for treatment.

"We know that half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 21. As such it is vitally important that we radically improve mental health services and increase investment in these, with an overall aim of ensuring that children and young people get the help they need, when they need it."

Maureen Watt, minister for mental health, said: "I'm clear that we must continue to reduce waiting times and I will not be satisfied until our 90% target is met. Our challenge now is to ensure this improvement is sustained, and to extend it to other parts of the country.

"In the coming weeks I will be publishing our new strategy for mental health. This will lay out how we will change services over the next decade, backed with £150 million of funding."