Press Release - Urgent action called for as more than half Health Boards fail to meet targets for children’s mental health treatment

Published on February 23, 2016
  • NHS Scotland as a whole fails to meet waiting time target dating from December 2014
  • Eight Health Boards are failing to meet an 18 week waiting time target dating from December 2014:
    • NHS Borders, NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Grampian, NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Tayside, NHS Lothian and NHS Western Isles

A leading coalition of independent and third sector children and young people’s service providers has called on the Scottish Government to act urgently to ensure that NHS Health Boards achieve waiting time targets for access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

The call from the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) (see Notes to Editors for members) comes as new figures are published today (23rd February) from the Information Services Division of National Services Scotland, part of NHS Scotland, covering the quarter from October to December 2015.  This highlights that only five out of 13 Health Boards are meeting mental health waiting time targets.

The NHS in Scotland provides mental health services for children and young people with a wide range of mental health problems including anxiety, behaviour problems, depression and early onset psychosis. Half of all diagnosable health problems start before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 21.

While commending the Scottish Government on its progress with policies which promote the universal wellbeing of children, such as Curriculum for Excellence and GIRFEC (Getting it right for every child) and greater investment in CAMHS, the SCSC has called on greater investment in mental health services and for an Action Plan to be put in place for those Health Boards failing to achieve waiting time targets. .

The Scottish Government set a target for the NHS in Scotland to deliver a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks from December 2014. The target should be delivered for at least 90% of patients.

The new figures indicate that for the 13 Health Boards as a whole 76% of people are being seen within this 18 week target, well short of the 90% set by the Scottish Government.2

Eight of the 13 Health Boards failing to achieve the 18 week waiting time target are NHS Borders (76.4%), NHS Fife (80.7%), NHS Forth Valley (33.8%), NHS Grampian (49.6%), NHS Lanarkshire (88.5%), NHS Lothian (59.3%), NHS Island Boards (89.3%) and NHS Tayside (58.4%)

This comes on the back of evidence pointing to the fact that only 0.46% of NHS Scotland expenditure is spent on child and adolescent mental health.3

The SCSC believes that if Health Boards increase expenditure on CAMHS this will not only cut waiting times, ensuring the early diagnosis and treatment of those children and young people with mental health problems, but also address the social and economic costs of failing to address these.

These costs are well-established. This is because those affected are more likely, for example, to be unemployed, homeless, get caught up in the criminal justice system, or are in extremely costly long-term care. In many cases this can be prevented through early intervention.

A spokesperson for the SCSC, said:

“We know that half of all diagnosable mental health problems start before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 21. As such it is vitally important that we intervene early to ensure that these young people are able to realise their full potential.

“Many children are identified as having poor mental health.  For the majority this may be circumstantial resulting in low esteem or depression, but many require diagnosis for underlying neurological or psychiatric conditions.  For these children, timely assessment is essential.  Scotland has some catching up to do in terms of providing for this aspect of child and adolescent mental health and ensuring that mental health is viewed in the same way as physical health.

““As a coalition we are delighted that the Scottish Government has committed an additional £150m in mental health services over the next five years, and that this is to be partly used to bring down child and adolescent mental health waiting times.

“We would however urge the Scottish Government to act quickly and increase investment from the current figure of less than 0.5% of the NHS budget, and put in place an Action Plan for those Health Boards failing to meet waiting time targets. This will ensure that those requiring it are given the support they need, so that those children and young people requiring these services do not miss out. .

"Families usually experience months of waiting even before a referral to CAMHS. The consequent delay in diagnosis and appropriate support can lead to a crisis situation for the child or young person concerned, as well as for their family, and the need for costly extra resources to address this.”

1 NHS Information Services Division, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Waiting Times in Scotland, 23rd February 2016. Available at: (Accessed 23rd February 2016).

2 This relates to 13 Health Boards as NHS Orkney were unable to submit data.

3 ISD Scotland, Child and Adolescent mental health expenditure 2014-15, Scottish Health Service Costs, Report R300, R04LSX and SFR 8.3.



For further information please contact Alex Orr, Policy Adviser to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, on 0131 603 8996 or [email protected].

Notes to Editors

  1. The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) is an alliance of leading independent and third sector service providers. SCSC members deliver specialist care and education services to vulnerable children and young people with complex needs, such as those with learning difficulties and learning disabilities, as well as direct help and support to their families. They also provide independent advocacy, advice and representation to children and young people with care experience. The SCSC campaigns for the delivery of high-quality and properly resourced services to vulnerable children and young people, so that they are able to reach their full potential through getting the best possible care and support

2. Members of the SCSC are:

Falkland House School: An independent school based in Fife that specialises in the education and care of boys who require support for learning. It was one of the first independent schools in Scotland to be awarded Autism Accreditation by the National Autistic Society and offers day, 39 week and 52 week placements.

Mindroom: A charity dedicated to creating awareness of all kinds of learning difficulties. Mindroom also provides one-to-one support to families and offer help advice and training to individuals and organisations who work with people with learning difficulties.

Spark of Genius: An independent organisation offering residential care, education, autism services, post-16 employability programmes and adult services throughout the UK. It enables children, young people and adults who need a variety of support to achieve their potential.

Who Cares? Scotland: A third sector independent advocacy organisation that provides individual and collective advocacy to children and young people with care experience across Scotland, as well as Corporate Parenting training and information.  Who Cares? Scotland has been working with children and young people for 35 years and uses this experience to campaign, lobby and speak out both with and on their behalf.

Young Foundations: An independent organisation that specialises in residential, fostering and integrated services for children and young people with complex needs, including autism, learning disabilities and mental health issues. It also offers specialist placements to children who may have suffered trauma or who have attachment based problems.

Kindred: A voluntary organisation that provides information, advocacy and emotional support to parents/carers of children and young people with additional support needs

Action for Sick Children Scotland (ASCS): A Scottish charity working on behalf of ALL sick children and young people within our healthcare system, and for the best quality healthcare for children and young people in Scotland.   It aims to enable children and young people to exercise their rights to healthcare, to have these rights upheld and their healthcare needs met, in partnership with families and professionals.  ASCS does this through its projects working with children and families and by providing support, advice and information on children and young people’s healthcare.

3. Further information about the SCSC can be found at

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