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Urgent action called for as more than half of Health Board figures fail to meet mental health waiting time targets

  • NHS Scotland as a whole fails to meet waiting time target dating from March 2013
  • Four Health Boards are failing to meet a 26 week waiting time target dating from March 2013:
    • NHS Forth Valley, NHS Fife, NHS Lothian and NHS Tayside
  • Eight Health Boards are failing to meet an 18 week waiting time target dating from December 2014:
    • NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Grampian, NHS Lothian, NHS Shetland and NHS Tayside, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Borders

A leading coalition of independent and third sector children and young people’s service providers has urged the Scottish Government to act urgently to ensure that NHS Health Boards achieve waiting time targets for access to Children 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 (25th August) from the Information Services Division of National Services Scotland, part of NHS Scotland, covering the quarter from April to June 2015.1

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

The Scottish Government set a target for the NHS in Scotland to deliver a maximum waiting time of 26 weeks from a patient’s referral to treatment for specialist CAMHS from March 2013, reducing to 18 weeks from December 2014. The target should be delivered for at least 90% of patients.

The new figures indicate that for Scotland’s 14 Health Boards as a whole 85.2% of people are being seen within the 26 week target and 76.6% within the 18 week target. Both these are failing to reach the 90% set by the Scottish Government.

Ten of the 14 Health Boards currently achieve the 26 week waiting time target, with the four who haven’t being NHS Forth Valley (77.3%), NHS Tayside (44.4%) and NHS Lothian (69.5%) and NHS Fife (89.7%).

Six of the 14 Health Boards currently achieve the 18 week waiting time target, with the eight who haven’t being NHS Borders (86.9%), NHS Fife (78.2%), NHS Forth Valley (50.0%), NHS Grampian (70.6%), NHS Lanarkshire (89.6%), NHS Lothian (58.3%), NHS Shetland (85.7%) and NHS Tayside (36.9%).

This comes on the back of evidence pointing to the fact that only 0.45% of NHS Scotland expenditure is spent on child and adolescent mental health.2

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 conditions, but also address the issue of the high number of those being sent to non-specialist wards.

The long-term cost to society of failing to treat these conditions is 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.

Sophie Pilgrim, Director of Kindred Scotland, speaking on behalf of the SCSC, said:

“We know that half of all diagnosable mental health conditions 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. 

As a coalition we are delighted that the Scottish Government has committed an additional £100m in mental health services over the next 5 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, to ensure that those NHS Boards who are failing to meet waiting time targets are given the support they need to do so, ensuring 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, as well as for their family, and the need for costly extra resources.”


NHS Information Services Division, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Waiting Times in Scotland, 25th August 2015. Available at: https://isdscotland.scot.nhs.uk/Health-Topics/Waiting-Times/Publications/2015-08-25/2015-08-25-CAMHS-Report.pdf.

ISD Scotland, Child and Adolescent mental health expenditure 2013-14, 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 contact@thescsc.org.uk.

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.

3. Further information about the SCSC can be found here.


About the Author

The SCSC is an alliance of leading providers of education, care and support to vulnerable children, young people and their families.