The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading providers of children’s services, has called for a Scottish Budget for mental health this week. It urges greatly increased investment in mental health services, against a backdrop of concerns over a mental health pandemic as the impacts of Covid-19 on the young become clearer.
The call comes as new figures published by Public Health Scotland today (7th December 2021), indicate that at the end of September 2021, 1,978 children and young people had been waiting over a year for treatment (PDF) from specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). This figure represents a doubling in numbers from September 2020 (959). They also represent 16.7 per cent of those waiting for specialist treatment.
With already under-resourced and overstretched services facing overwhelming pressure due to increased demand, the SCSC has raised concerns over a potential “lost generation” of vulnerable children and young people whose mental health is being impacted by Covid-19.
Even prior to the pandemic cases of poor mental health were at unprecedented levels and in crisis, and there are a growing number of vulnerable children who cannot access adequate support.
In total, 3,792 children and young people started treatment at CAMHS during the period July to September 2021 (PDF). However, only 78.6 per cent were seen within the Scottish Government’s waiting time target for the NHS of 18 weeks from referral to treatment (met by at least 90 per cent of patients). Nine out of 14 health boards failed to meet this target (full table in Notes to Editors).
In addition to increased investment in specialist CAMHS, the SCSC has called for a renewed focus on expanded prevention and early intervention services, reducing the need for referral to costly specialist mental health services. It has also called for greater partnership working between the public, private and third sectors as well as greater awareness of the services on offer, especially those at a community level.
A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:
“We are urging the Scottish Government to make the forthcoming budget a Budget for mental health for our children and young people. For some time we have raised concerns over a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people, whose mental health is being impacted even further by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is more important than ever that children can access the support they need, when they need it, irrespective of where they live.
“To achieve this there must be a radical transformation of our mental health services, investing in specialist services and with a focus on preventing such problems arising in the first place and intervening early.
“This is a crisis we can overcome, but it will require a similar energy and commitment to that demonstrated for Covid-19 if we are to achieve this and prevent many young people giving up on their futures.”
Notes to Editors
Waiting times (with adjustments) for people who started their treatment from July to September 2021, by NHS Board of treatment.
|Health board||Total number seen||% seen within 18 weeks|
|NHS Ayrshire & Arran||381||99.5|
|NHS Dumfries & Galloway||81||33.3|
|NHS Forth Valley||87||64.4|
|NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Valley||1,021||75.5|
|NHS Island Boards||47||100.0|