Half of Scottish youth stuck on year-long mental health waiting list are from NHS Lothian

More than 50 per cent of national youth mental health referrals forced to wait over a year for treatment are from NHS Lothian.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 5:35 pm

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NHS Lothian patients account for more than half of Scottish children forced to wait over a year for mental health treatment.

As of March, 2,012 young people in Scotland had been waiting more than 12 months for treatment, 1,129 of which are in NHS Lothian.

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As of March, 2,012 young people in Scotland had been waiting more than 12 months for treatment.

The data, published by Public Health Scotland this morning, also found that only 37.2 per cent of youth referrals have been seen by mental health professionals within the allotted 18-week period, down more than 2 per cent from last year.

This leaves NHS Lothian as the second poorest performing health board, behind NHS Highland, and well below the Scottish Government target of 90 per cent.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Children's Services Coalition (SCSC) said the “frightening statistics” must be addressed by the Scottish Government.

“One in three children and young people in the Lothians are waiting more than 18-weeks for treatment, which is in itself far too long,” said the spokesperson.

“In addition, there are 1,129 individuals who have already been waiting more than a year for treatment, which is more than half of that for Scotland as a whole.

“It is vital we get an understanding of why this is the case so it can be urgently addressed.”

The SCSC has demanded MSPs commit to focusing on children’s mental health.

The spokesperson continued: “These frightening statistics highlight the challenges ahead and a commitment by MSPs to focus on mental health, increasing investment in support services and intervention strategies, must be a priority for this parliament.”

NHS Lothian is the second busiest health board in the country with 1560 referrals made between January and March.

The Scottish Government has allocated more than £29 million to NHS boards to improve children's mental health services, with £4.25 million provided specifically to address waiting lists.

Mental Wellbeing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We’re determined to reduce long waits for child and adolescent mental health services.

“That’s why we have allocated over £29 million to NHS boards to improve CAMHS, with £4.25 million to specifically address waiting lists.”

However local MSP Miles Briggs, said the mental health professionals working in Lothian still do not have the resources needed to see everyone.

He said: “In Edinburgh and the Lothians there is significant demand for Children and Young Adult mental health services, which is nowhere near being met.

“Mental health professionals work extremely hard to do the best they can for every young person who comes through their door, but they do not have the resources to see everyone.

“NHS Lothian has increased the number of CAMHS mental health professionals recently, but finances must be made available to increase the workforce even further.

“Innovative ideas such as mental health professionals in schools are useful, but a multi-faceted approach needs to be taken.”

The politician went on to say that the Scottish Government has failed to make progress in supporting young people.

He said: “SNP Ministers were caught unawares by the surge in demand for mental health support and have failed to make progress in supporting our young people.”

Despite claims of stretched resources in Lothian wait times, Mr Stewart said there has been “sustained improvement” in parts of the country.

He said: “While it's welcome that we’re seeing sustained improvement in parts of the country we want to go further and see that delivered consistently across the country.

“To ensure this we are developing a programme of enhanced support for areas where waits are unacceptably long.”

NHS Lothian has been approached for comments.

Today, Public Health Scotland also reported on a significant backlog of operations yet to be carried out by NHS Lothian.

The report said a total of 29,221 operations have been carried out in the health board over the last year, compared to 48,342 in the previous year. This is equivalent to 40 per cent fewer operations being carried out, creating a significant waiting list.

Between May 2019 and April 2020, 54,330 operations were scheduled with 5,988 cancellations and meaning 48,342 operations were carried out.

This is in comparison to May 2020 to April 2021 with 31,872 operations scheduled, 2,651 cancelled, meaning that 29,221 operations were carried out.

In the latest NHS board papers, in April this year (NHS Lothian warned that: “There is a need for an agreed recovery plan and the public need to understand that our ability to recover this year will be limited and it is likely that waiting times may further deteriorate until Autumn before improvement is seen.”

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