A Dundee father has told of the “utter hopelessness” of waiting 10 months for his daughter to receive specialist NHS treatment while she was convinced men with guns stalked the family home.
The seven-year-old girl was referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) last February after concerns were raised that chemotherapy drugs she was taking to help with arthritis were causing behavioural problems.
The man spoke out after statistics released this week revealed more than half of Tayside’s youngsters referred for mental health treatment wait more than six months to receive it.
He told The Courier: “It was just a case of waiting and waiting and waiting.
“My wife had phoned late summertime and was told my daughter was not at risk so was the lowest priority.
“I can understand that but it wasn’t helping us with her behaviour.
“We eventually got seen in November at Dudhope (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) where the staff were absolutely brilliant. It just took so long to get there.
“It has been really difficult. She’s our oldest one and we want to be able to help her but we felt helpless.”
The primary school pupil is being monitored by specialists to see if they can diagnose her condition and put in place programmes to help her.
Her father said her behaviour is already showing signs of improvement now that she has finally started receiving her referred support, which came quickly after local MSP Jenny Marra wrote to NHS Tayside.
She is terrified by the dark and can convince herself that people are outside the family’s house carrying guns, even occasionally thinking she has seen a potential intruder looking in the upstairs bathroom window.
“From our side it is that feeling of utter helplessness chasing the referral and being left in limbo,” said the father.
“I don’t know if we would have seen anybody if we hadn’t mentioned it to our MSP. I’m grateful to her because I don’t know where we would be now without it.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon slammed NHS Tayside’s performance when pressed on the issue by Labour member Ms Marra at Holyrood.
She said: “In terms of Tayside, there have been very long waiting experiences, which I think is totally unacceptable, and that is why NHS Tayside in January recruited nine additional nursing and medical staff and the CAMHS team is now making an impact on those waiting times.”
A spokeswoman for the health board said: “Patients should be reassured that all urgent referrals are assessed and continue to be seen quickly.”