The Coalition responds to comments made by Antony Clark, Interim Controller of Audit at Audit Scotland, in his blog on child and adolescent mental health services.
As mental health campaigners we were not surprised by the Audit Scotland blog highlighting that the number of young people waiting more than a year for treatment from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) has trebled in the past year. This now amounts to almost a fifth of those seeking treatment (1st September).
Before the pandemic access to mental health treatment was already a significant issue, but Covid-19 has laid bare the scale of the challenge ahead and the major uplift in resources required. This is further supported by a staff survey by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland which found that more than 84 per cent of CAMHS psychiatrists felt they did not have enough resources, while 44 per cent felt that services were poorly staffed.
While we welcome the NHS Recovery Plan which that states that at least 1 per cent of all frontline spend goes on CAMHS over the next five years, we would urge that there is significantly increased investment now.
What is also vitally required is a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention, reducing the need for costly CAMHS. However, funding restrictions have impacted on services providing these.
While undoubtedly damaging, the impact of the pandemic on the mental wellbeing of many of our young people is not yet fully understood. Figures issued last month however indicating that self-harm among the young in Scotland was at its highest level for 14 years may be a sign of things to come.
We are facing a full-blown mental health crisis and our children and young people are bearing the brunt of this. They must be able to access the services they need when they need them. There is simply no time to waste.