Sixty per cent of youth referrals to mental health services in Lothians still on waiting lists

MSPs call for a new mental health strategy

By Shona Elliott
Wednesday, 2nd September 2020, 6:20 pm
Sixty per cent of young people are on a waiting list
Sixty per cent of young people are on a waiting list

SIX out of ten children and young people with referrals in Lothian are having to wait more than 18 weeks to be seen by a mental health professional.

Currently only 40.1 per cent of youth referrals to mental health services are seen by professionals in the 18 week period.

This is 50 percentage points less than the Scottish Government target of 90 per cent.

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Figures from Public Health Scotland, published yesterday, also reveal a sharp increase in the number of youths waiting to access services. As of June 2020 there are 2,482 young people waiting to be seen by mental health professionals in Lothian, compared to 1277 in January to March 2020, an increase of 94 per cent.

These figures follow the announcement of a £3 million investment from Lothian health bosses in January 2020.

However, waiting times have continued to lengthen with 19 per cent of young people from Lothian referred to mental health services left on waiting lists for over 12 months.

Lothians Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said the figures will continue to rise until services are properly resourced.

He said: "These figures reinforce the mental health crisis for young people in NHS Lothian with exceptionally long waits to be seen by a mental health professional.

"Mental health professionals work incredibly hard to support young people, but services are simply not being properly resourced to meet demand."

He added: "SNP ministers have presided over our health service for over 13 years and have failed to support a generation of young people."

Wait times increased throughout Scotland with official NHS statistics showing 11,839 children and young people currently in line to access services.

The figures prompted Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP to call for a new strategy.

He said: "At the outset of the pandemic there were already a record number of children waiting over a year for treatment. It's inevitable that this has got worse as some services were scaled back.

"But it is still heartbreaking to see many more children now struggle at the back of one of the longest queues in the entire health service.

"The Scottish Government's old strategy already wasn't working, because three years in it had led to record numbers of children waiting over a year for the help they need. That is why we want ministers to bring forward a recovery plan that can meet existing and heightened demand, including immediate new steps to seriously expand the workforce."

Professor Alex McMahon, Director Nursing, Midwivery & AHP's for NHS Lothian, said: "We know that the waiting time for the children's and adolescents' mental health service has been longer than it should be and we were already working hard to reduce this before the pandemic. The restrictions that were put in place during the pandemic have unfortunately set us back, creating longer waits than before.

"We are working hard to address this issue by redesigning some of our processes, continually increasing our clinical capacity and developing new ways of working, such as providing both virtual and face-to-face sessions."

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