Georgina HayesTue, June 1, 2021, 1:28 PM
SNP ministers have been accused of presiding over a “frightening” mental health record after new figures revealed that the number of young Scots waiting more than a year to start treatment has almost trebled since the pandemic struck.
A new report on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) waiting times, produced by Public Health Scotland, found that more than 2,000 youngsters have been on the list for at least 52 weeks – despite the SNP’s target of having at least 90 per cent of those seeking help seen within 18 weeks.
The “frightening” statistics are the “worst on record”, according to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), who raised concerns over a “lost generation” of vulnerable children and young people whose mental health is being impacted by Covid-19.
At the end of March 2020 there were 695 children and young people who had been waiting a year or more for their first appointment with CAMHS, but this number surged to 2,012 by the end of March this year – an increase of 189.5 per cent.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-6-0/html/r-sf-flx.html
The figures also revealed that between January and March this year, 1,703 referrals to services – equivalent to 22.5 per cent – were rejected.
The report suggested this was potentially because of a combination of school closures, children not having access to a confidential space for digital appointments or a “desire to wait for an in-person appointment”.
But SNP ministers have faced a heavy stream of criticism even before the Covid-19 crisis for frequently missing their own waiting time targets and for “failing the young people of Scotland” by failing to adequately invest in vital mental health services.
In 2019/20, only 8.5 per cent of NHS spending in Scotland was dedicated to mental health, compared with 11.3 and 11 per cent in England and Wales respectively.
An SCSC spokesperson said they had “for some time raised concerns” over “a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people” and urged MSPs to focus on increasing investment in support services as a priority.
“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,” they said.
Scottish Labour claimed the figures prove that CAMHS in Scotland is in “crisis” and condemned the wait times as “nothing short of a scandal”.
“We know that the pandemic has had a serious impact on the mental health of our young people – the Scottish Government simply cannot continue to fail them,” said deputy leader and health spokesperson Jackie Baillie.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats demanded that the SNP must “set out when waits over a year will cease and when the 18-week target will be met for the first time ever”.
Mental Wellbeing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We’re determined to reduce long waits for child and adolescent mental health services. That’s why we have allocated over £29 million to NHS boards to improve CAMHS, with £4.25 million to specifically address waiting lists.
“While it’s welcome that we’re seeing sustained improvement in parts of the country we want to go further and see that delivered consistently across the country.”