Only half of children in NHS Lothian were seen by mental health services within the Scottish Government’s 18-week target – down from 70 per cent the previous year.
Scottish Labour revealed that as at March 2016 – 208 patients were seen with 69.7 per cent within the 18-week target but the figures a year later for March 2017 show 257 patients were seen but only 51.4 per cent of these were attended to within the target period.
They say the figures show the scale of the SNP’s mismanagement of the NHS and reinforced the case for a school-based counsellor in every secondary school and a review of rejected referrals.
The Scottish Government say that a mental health link person is available for every school to access but it is not a specific job title and the role may be carried out by a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) clinician or another specialist such as a primary care worker.
Professor Alex McMahon, Director of Nursing, NHS Lothian, said: “In recent years we have seen a steady rise in the number of children and young people accessing mental health services and we are implementing a range of measures to reduce waiting times.
“We are looking at how we can work with schools, colleges and universities and have created a number of special clinics, including some evening appointments, for those who have waited the longest. In the last year we have also recruited eight new psychological therapists and introduced some pioneering trials to help transform the way some services are delivered.”
Kenny Graham from Falkland House School, member of campaigning group the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, described the results as “disappointing”.
He said: “These findings are certainly disappointing, with it being revealed that 14 councils in Scotland do not have a mental health link worker, and a further 12 do not hold any information on the role. Mental health link workers play a vitally important role in schools, spotting and addressing issues early on. Without these qualified professionals children and young people are often being referred to costly specialist CAMHS, when these issues could have been addressed much earlier on.”
Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt said: “We take the mental health of our young people very seriously and the number of children and young people seen by mental health services within the target time has increased for three consecutive quarters. We have doubled the number of child and adolescent mental health service psychology posts and are investing an extra £150 million in mental health over five years.”