Politics

Seven year wait for child mental health treatment branded ‘tortuous’ by Lib Dem leader

YOUNG people are facing “tortuous” waiting times for treatment for their mental health, the Liberal Democrats have claimed.

According to data obtained by the party, some children and teenagers have been waiting longer than two years, with one young person waiting seven years to receive help in Scotland.

Mental health minister Kevin Stewart said lengthy waits were not acceptable, but pointed to the £40m funding provided this year by the Scottish Government to tackle the issue.

READ MORE: Scotland’s mental health services ‘in crisis’ as waiting times soar

Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said he had uncovered data showing the extent of waiting times facing some young people across the coutry’s 14 health boards.

Through Freedom of Information requests and analysis, Mr Cole-Hamilton revealed that one young person in NHS Grampian, who started treatment this year, had waited 2,534 days – 6 years and 11 months, – for their care to begin .

HeraldScotland: Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has described the 'tortuous' delays for childrenAlex Cole-Hamilton of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has described the ‘tortuous’ delays for children

NHS Fife, Lothian and Highland reported waits of more than two years, with more than 140 children and young people who were treated this year having waited more than two years for their care to start.

The longest waits for patients are currently in NHS Ayrshire & Arran, with children waiting as long as 919 days and NHS Lanarkshire (830 days).

Between all of Scotland’s health boards there are currently 392 young people who have been waiting over two years for care and have not yet received treatment.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “This is a shocking catalogue of failures. Waits of two years or more for mental health care are torturous. Problems that start small if left untreated become crises. It breaks my heart to know that children are being failed for so long by Scotland’s current mental health care system.  

“If your child breaks their arm, you would expect them to be seen the same day but if they come forward with a mental health condition their wait can last for years.  

“The SNP is guilty of over a decade of NHS mismanagement and these statistics prove it. They have been failing generations of young adults in need of swift mental health help.”

READ MORE: Child mental health pandemic concern as Scotland’s waiting lists soar

He said his party had “championed the cause of Scotland’s mental health, securing £120m in last year’s budget” adding: “It is clear that this is just the beginning of what is necessary.

“We need a detailed timeline to clear CAMHS waiting lists backed up with fresh funds for mental health services and more local and accessible services and practitioners. 

“Scottish Liberal Democrats put forward a motion which was backed by the Scottish Parliament to declare a mental health emergency. The Government need to act like it.”  

HeraldScotland: Mental Health Minister Kevin StewartMental Health Minister Kevin Stewart

Mental Health Minister Kevin Stewart said the waits were “not acceptable” and added that the government was “determined to improve”.

He said:”Long waits for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are not acceptable. It is encouraging to see progress towards meeting the waiting times target, with eight out of ten children and young people seen within 18 weeks of a referral. 

“But we are determined to further improve things, particularly in those areas where there have been increases in the number of children and young people waiting for over a year for treatment. This is why dedicated support is being directed to those Boards with the longest waits to clear all backlogs by March 2023.

“As part of this support, we have provided additional funding of £40m to improve CAMHS this year, with £4.25m directly focused on offering treatment to those already on waiting lists.”

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