Young people waiting years for mental health treatments in Scotland

New figures from NHS Scotland have revealed the extent of the waits some young people suffering from a mental health problem now face in accessing treatment.

Just weeks after the publication of the Scottish government’s Mental Health Strategy, and at the start of Scotland’s Mental Health Awareness Week, new figures have revealed the extent of the waits some young people suffering from a mental health problem now face in accessing treatment.

The information obtained by the Conservative MSP and shadow public health minister, Mary Scanlon, has revealed some children are facing waits of up to three years before receiving treatment for their mental health problems.

Scanlon has also learnt the top waiting times for adult psychology, psychiatric treatment, and cognitive behavioural therapies could also run into years. The data reveal that in the Grampian and Highland areas, it can take more than two years to see a psychologist, whilst in Dumfreis and Galloway the wait is more than a year.

The longest waiting time, for adult cognitive behaviour therapies – applying to five per cent of cases – was 112 weeks in the NHS Highland region, whilst NHS Tayside had the longest waits for adult psychology and psychiatry appointments, at 134 weeks and 116 weeks respectively.

It comes just over a week after it was reported hospitals in NHS Lanarkshire have reported a 60% increase in the number of under-18s being admitted to adult mental health wards over the past two years, flying in the face of an earlier Scottish government commitment to reduce the figure by 50% by 2009.

In responding to the figures, Ms Scanlon said:

“That a child in need of mental health treatment could be asked to wait for three and a half years to be seen is shocking. Immediate action must be taken to reduce these waiting times as we simply cannot afford to neglect the mental health of Scottish children.”

“If the Scottish government are going to reach their target to reduce mental health waiting times for children to 26 weeks by March 2013 then action must be taken now to reduce these current waiting times.

“Given that 47% of incapacity benefit claimants have a mental health problem, there must be an increase in resources for mental health, to give an opportunity to get back to work under the proposed welfare reform system.”

Committing to speeding up access to services, a spokesman for the Scottish government responded:

“We are committed to improving the speed of access to specialist child and adolescent mental health services. We have been investing in specialist services to ensure children and young people are supported in the community as far as possible.

“We have also invested in increasing the specialist child and adolescent workforce – equating this year to £5.5m of ring-fenced money for specialist services.”

Meanwhile, starting Scotland’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Carolyn Roberts, head of policy and campaigns at the Scottish Association for Mental Health, has called on Holyrood to put tackling mental health at the centre of its agendas, explaining:

“We think it’s essential that the Scottish Government recognises that mental health is about self-esteem and resilience – it’s at the core of Scotland’s well-being.

“One in four people in Scotland will experience a mental health problem at some point. The social and economic costs of such problems in Scotland are £10.7 billion a year.

“Without good mental health, government strategies on education, poverty, employment and many other areas just cannot succeed. Good mental health is truly the foundation stone of a better Scotland.”

See also:

Counting the cost of chaos: The billions we can save by saving livesAntonia Bance, May 12th 2011

Why won’t Cameron come clean on NHS cuts?Dominic Browne, April 27th 2011

Cuts to mental health services could have “devastating consequences”Ed Jacobs, October 1st 2010

Coalition’s new mental health strategy should be supportedMark Davies, September 7th 2010

Mental health problems cost Wales £7.2bnEd Jacobs, March 18th 2010

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