Cole-Hamilton reveals shocking catalogue of children’s mental health failures

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton warned of “torturous” waits to access child and adolescent mental health services, as he unveiled research by his party which reveals hundreds of children waiting more than two years for treatment and a shocking report of almost seven years for one young person to get support. 

Information uncovered by Scottish Liberal Democrats through freedom of information requests and analysis of Public Health Scotland data reveal: 

  • One young person in NHS Grampian who started treatment this year had waited 2,534 days for their care to begin. 
  • Fife, Lothian and Highland reported waits of more than two years, with more than 140 children and young people who started treatment in 2020/21 having waited more than two years for their care to start. 
  • The longest waits for patients currently awaiting care are Ayrshire & Arran (919 days), Lanarkshire (830 days), Fife, Highland and Lothian (all >730 days). 
  • Health boards report that there are currently 392 young people who have been waiting over two years for care and have still not received treatment. 

Commenting on these figures, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex 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. 

“My party has championed the cause of Scotland’s mental health, securing £120m in last year’s budget but 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.” 

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