Worst figures on record for those children waiting over a year for mental health treatment

Published on June 1, 2021

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading providers of children’s services, has called on Scotland’s political parties to make this newly elected Scottish Parliament a “parliament for mental health”.

The call comes as new figures published today (1st June 2021) from Public Health Scotland indicate that at the end of March 2021, 2,012 children and young people had been waiting over a year for treatment (PDF) from specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) provided by the NHS. These figures are the worst on record and represent a near tripling from March 2020 (696). They also represent more than 18 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 there are a growing number of vulnerable children who cannot access adequate support.

While 4,089 children and young people were treated over the period January to March 2021 by CAMHS (PDF), only 72.5 per cent were seen within the Scottish Government’s waiting time target for the NHS of 18 weeks from referral to treatment (met for at least 90 per cent of patients).  Only two out of 14 health boards met this target (full table in Notes to Editors).

In addition to increased investment in mental health services, the SCSC has called for a renewed focus on expanded prevention and early intervention services, reducing the need for referral to costly specialist CAMHS. 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:

“These frightening statistics highlight the challenges ahead and a commitment by MSPs to focus on mental health, increasing investment in support services and intervention strategies, must be a priority for this parliament.

“We have for some time 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.

“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

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