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Tayside and Fife helped to cut ‘unacceptable’ child mental health waits

Long treatment waiting times are faced by many struggling youngsters
Long treatment waiting times are faced by many struggling youngsters

Child mental health services in Tayside and Fife have been getting special help to try to tackle “devastating” waiting times, it has emerged.

Scottish Government ministers revealed they were among seven areas receiving “enhanced support” and funding to end long waits for youngsters who need treatment.

The measures include £4.25 million to help those already on waiting lists.

Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Tess White said the cash would not be enough to help a generation who had been “repeatedly failed”.

Official figures  for the last quarter of 2021 shows just 70% of struggling youngsters were seen within the target time in Scotland, down from 78% in the previous quarter.

Tess White MSP

The figures included more than 300 waiting longer than a year for help.

The Scottish Government aims for 90% of children and young people to be starting treatment within 18 weeks of referral to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

NHS Grampian and NHS Tayside were among only a handful of boards to meet the 90% target, recording rates of 95% and 93% respectively.

Tayside had been under 90% in the three preceding quarters, however, and the majority of other board areas remained significantly below the target.

They included Dumfries and Galloway with just 47% treated within the 18 week target, while Forth Valley and Greater Glasgow were both at 57%, Lothian had a rate of 65%, Borders was on 67%, Lanarkshire was at 69%, Fife’s was 72%, and Highland’s was 75%.

Fife and Highland have previously been highlighted for having some of the longest waits in the nation.

Which boards get ‘enhanced support’?

Following parliamentary questions at Holyrood, Mental Wellbeing and Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart has revealed which areas had been receiving extra help.

He said: “NHS Borders, Fife, Forth Valley, Highland, Lanarkshire, Lothian and Tayside have all been receiving enhanced support to meet the waiting times standard and eliminate long waits by end March 2023.

“We will shortly be writing out to all boards to inform them about our programme of support for the next six to 12 months, including those which will be offered additional support.”

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart is a patient at Carden Medical Centre.
Kevin Stewart MSP

Mr Stewart said that £40 million had been allocated to NHS boards to improve CAMHS from the government’s £120m mental health recovery and renewal fund.

It includes £4.25m to be directly focused on offering treatment to those already on CAMHS waiting lists.

Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Tess White said the number of vulnerable young people on waiting lists is devastating.

‘Completely unacceptable’

“This funding won’t nearly be enough to help a generation of youngsters suffering from mental health issues who have repeatedly been failed by this SNP government,” she said.

“In April, more than 34,000 vulnerable young people had not started treatment within the SNP’s own 18-week target from referral which is completely unacceptable.

“We continue to hear a lot of warm words from Scottish Government ministers on supporting young people with mental health issues, but far too little in terms of urgent action.”

Children’s area of the waiting room at CAMHS Links unit, City Hospital, Urquhart Road, Aberdeen

Rona Laskowski, head of critical care services at Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, said said Fife continued to benefit from the additional support provided through the Scottish Government’s CAMHS advisor.

“The investment through the recovery and renewal fund has provided the opportunity to increase our CAMHS workforce in order to meet demand, reduce waiting times and ensure that the service provision is in line with best practice and the Scottish Government’s CAMHS national service specification,” she said.

A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said: “We work closely with the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Quality and Safety team who support the CAMHS team to implement a range of improvement plans to help meet the waiting time standard.

“The government team also recognises and shares good practice from NHS Tayside with CAMHS teams in other health boards.

“We are working to improve waiting times and additional nursing and allied health professional staff have recently been recruited to increase service capacity over the coming months.

“In addition, a new lead nurse, senior nurse and programme manager are in post, bolstering the leadership and service improvement position within CAMHS.”

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