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Child mental health treatment times ‘horrifying’

Jenny Marra.
Jenny Marra.

The number of young people waiting more than a year to be treated by mental health services has increased ten-fold in a year, according to figures released by Scottish Labour.

The party said the Scottish Government is “letting down some of the most vulnerable children in Scotland” over the numbers.

Figures from the Information Services Division Scotland for December 2013 showed that the number people who had been waiting over a year for treatment was 20, and an update by the same body this week showed 226 people had been waiting more than 53 weeks to access services in December 2014.

In both cases, the majority of those waiting for services are under 18.

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jenny Marra said the Health Secretary needs to provide an explanation.

The Scottish Government said £17 million has been invested in improving services since 2009 and that it will continue to work to “ensure that all young people who need the services get them within the time that they should expect to get them”.

Ms Marra,who last week took up the case of a family in Dundee, said: “Twenty vulnerable young people waiting over a year for treatment is 20 too many.

“For the figure to multiply by more than 10 is simply horrifying.

“These children aren’t even close to the waiting time target for mental health services – they are waiting over twice as long as the SNP want our NHS to aim for.

“When we talk about targets in our NHS it is easy to forget we are talking about people’s lives. This is children experiencing mental health problems who have to wait over a year for the treatment they need and were promised. The wait isn’t an inconvenience for them, it could worsen their condition.

“This is a failure from the SNP Government in Edinburgh. If these figures were A&E waiting times or delayed discharge it would be nothing short of a national scandal. We cannot allow these vulnerable children to be forgotten about.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Since 2009, we have invested nearly £17 million and specialist child and adolescent mental health services workforce has increased by 24%.

“We have introduced the waiting times target that no one will wait longer than 18 weeks from referral to treatment for access to child and adolescent mental health services, while when they are assessed as needing to access a service more urgently, they will be seen more quickly, sometimes on the same day.

“At the end of last year, we announced an additional £15 million over three years for mental health services – to increase the workforce and establish a Mental Health Innovation Fund. The fund will help improve the quality of mental health services and support ways to deliver them better.

“We have introduced a tougher target in order to drive progress faster. Half of all health boards are meeting that tougher target. Seven health boards are not yet meeting the CAMHS waiting times target, but they all have action plans in place. This week the Health Minister spoke to all of those seven health boards.

“We are right to drive progress and we are right to set an even tougher target, to ensure that we can accelerate progress, and to have put in the resources. We will continue to do the work to ensure that all young people who need the services get them within the time that they should expect to get them.”

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