Cole-Hamilton uncovers mental health target breached by 1.2 million days

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today published new figures showing that the child mental health waiting time target has been breached by more than 1.2 million days, describing the performance as "appalling".

The 18-week referral to treatment target for CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) target was introduced in December 2014. Now freedom of information requests conducted by the party have uncovered that young people have collectively waited 1.2 million days in excess of the 18-week threshold.

The worst performance was recorded in NHS Lothian where, in 2016/17 alone, children who had already missed the 18-week target waited a further 206,059 days for treatment.

The most recent national waiting times statistics showed the waiting time target being missed for more than one in four children requiring treatment - the worst performance in two years. In NHS Grampian, just 33% of children were seen on time.

Mr Cole-Hamilton commented:

"We knew that performance against this flagship mental health target was bad, but to breach it by more than 1.2 million days is an appalling revelation.

"That means those children for whom the target is missed are on average waiting a further 120 days for the treatment they desperately need. For some the wait is a great deal longer. We have identified young people waiting up to two years for help.

"At that age, this must feel like a lifetime. These are vulnerable children, coping with issues from eating disorders and depression to bullying and anxiety. Staff are working around the clock but aren't getting the support they need. Ministers set a target but have done nothing to deliver the stepchange in mental health required to actually meet it.

"The pitiful uplift announced in the budget for mental health doesn't get close to addressing the scale of the problem. The scale of ministers' ambition was revealed earlier this year when they celebrated missing the target by a slightly smaller margin than usual. Since then, performance has plummeted.

"It is time ministers accepted that there is a crisis in mental health. To end the scandal of long waits and long journeys for treatment we desperately need to double the CAMHS budget, finally establish beds for young people north of Dundee and put mental health practitioners capable of delivering treatments in every GP surgery and A&E in the country."

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