Kids’ mental health care waiting times soar

NHS Lothian was one of the worst performing health boards with regards to children's mental health care waiting times. Picture: Phil Wilkinson (Posed by model)

NHS Lothian was one of the worst performing health boards with regards to children's mental health care waiting times. Picture: Phil Wilkinson (Posed by model)

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Children and young people suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health problems in Lothian are being forced to endure some of the longest waits for treatment in Scotland.

The latest statistics reveal only around half of under-18s needing intervention from Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) started treatment within the Scottish Government’s 18-week target during the first quarter of 2015.

NHS Lothian was the worst performing health board apart from NHS Tayside, which saw just 34.7 per cent of patients within the time limit. Ministers have ordered health boards to see 90 per cent of patients within the time limit, replacing a previous target of 26 weeks.

Vulnerable young patients also face a postcode lottery, as young people in Lothian have average waits of 17 weeks, nearly three times longer than patients in Glasgow.

The figures published yesterday by ISD Scotland show that only 33.7 per cent of adults were treated within 18 weeks of referral, facing an average wait of 29 weeks for treatment.

These statistics are a “national scandal”, according to Dr Richard Simpson MSP, shadow minister for public and mental health.

Dr Simpson, a psychiatrist with more than 20 years’ experience, said: “These figures are a national scandal and represent the SNP’s failure to get mental health waiting times under control. I know from experience as a practitioner that the longer vulnerable patients, especially children, wait for treatment in mental health services, the more likely it is their condition will worsen.”

Lib Dem health spokesman Jim Hume said: “You wouldn’t allow a child to wait four months or longer with a broken leg – mental health problems should be treated with the same urgency.

“The increase in staff across all professions in CAMHS underlines the need for greater resource for mental health treatment in our NHS.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats want the SNP to enshrine in law the equal treatment of mental and physical ill health.”

The government announced an extra £85 million of funding for mental health on Sunday, which will contribute to “significant investments” made in Lothian mental health services, said Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian.

He said: “More young people than ever before are accessing mental health services and we have seen a steady rise in the number of children and young people being referred to our services. Unfortunately, there are more patients waiting longer than we would like and we are working hard to reduce this number.”

The health board has created a number of special clinics, including evening appointments for those who have endured the longest waits. It has also hired eight extra psychological therapists and introduced pioneering trials to help transform the way services are delivered.

Prof McMahon added: “We are confident this work will help us improve access and ensure more people are seen within 18 weeks.”