New figures have revealed youngsters in Fife have been forced to wait a combined total of almost 200,000 days for mental health support in recent years.
Children and teenagers waiting to be seen were delayed by a combined 197,918 days between 2017 and 2020.
The statistics, which come from an Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, show that Scotland’s children have collectively waited 2.5 million days over the 18-week acceptable period.
Waiting times ‘a scandal’
The backlog has been slammed by politicians, with North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie saying: “It’s a scandal so many children and young people across Fife have had their lives put on hold while they wait for treatment.
“The Scottish Liberal Democrats have been warning the Scottish Government for years that there is a major public health problem coming down the tracks.
“We desperately need to see transformational investment in Scotland’s mental health services.
“Our NHS staff do an incredible job, but they need more money, staff and resources behind them to make sure this runs smoothly and no one falls through the gaps.”
In Scotland, waiting times for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) should be no longer than 18 weeks.
‘Time passes so quickly for youngsters’
North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain fears the backlog will be exacerbated by lockdown.
She said: “Time passes so quickly for youngsters.
“Behind each of these numbers is a family wracked with worry about a young person suffering with mental health problems.
“Mental health services are under immense strain. For years vulnerable children across Scotland have been subjected to harrowing long waits for help.
“The pandemic and the backlog in appointments it has caused will only make matters worse.”
Figures were only available until September last year but showed delays were far worse in financial year 2019/20.
In that year, youngsters waited a collective 84,133 days – more than double the 38,913 of the previous year.
Between April and September last year, the total number of days past the 18-week target was 32,732.
‘Priority’ to address waiting times
Jim Crichton, divisional general manager of Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Fife CAMHS acknowledges the length of wait is unacceptable and addressing this is a priority for our service.
“The service has a plan in place that aims to reduce the waiting list to zero by July 2022 and is the result of investment from the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership to increase the staffing levels in order to meet the ongoing demand.
“As part of this process Fife CAMHS has recently recruited staff specifically to address the longest waits and this has resulted in appointments being offered to all children and young people who have waited over 52 weeks.
“All children who have waited longest have been signposted to alternative service providers and assessed as safe to wait either through ongoing contact with the wider support networks or through direct assessment from the CAMHS primary mental health workers.
“The unprecedented increase in children and young people who have required urgent or priority appointments due to severe mental health issues or significant risk has meant that resources have needed to be moved to prioritise this group of young people which has contributed to those with significant, but less urgent needs, having to wait longer.
“The average waiting times for Fife CAMHS remains 11 weeks whilst those with the greatest need are routinely being seen within the same week of referral.”