Doctors need more cash to bring an end to “appalling” delays for children accessing mental health treatment, a senior politician has said.
North-east MSP Mike Rumbles made the call as new statistics showed NHS Grampian waiting times to be the worst in Scotland.
As of June, 48.1% of children approaching children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) had been seen within 18 weeks – the lowest rate of the 14 Scottish health boards.
One child had to wait more than a year to be seen by NHS Grampian – the first time since October 2017.
NHS Grampian has fewer CAMHS workers than any other mainland Scotland board and Mr Rumbles said the Scottish Government should stick to a funding formula this year and give NHS Grampian £7.7 million more, on top of the £905.5m it has already given.
Mr Rumbles said: “It is absolutely appalling that half of our young people waiting urgently for mental health treatment under NHS Grampian are forced to wait more than four months to be seen.
“What this shows is the Scottish Government still do not take mental health treatment seriously and they would rather have hundreds of children go without treatment than properly fund our local health care services.
“NHS Grampian is the worst-funded health board in Scotland and it is no surprise it also has the worst waiting times for mental health treatment for children.
“While ministers close their eyes to the problems in NHS Grampian it is the patients and hardworking staff that are made to suffer.
“NHS Grampian needs its fair share of funding from the Scottish Government to help doctors and other staff do their jobs.”
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
Olivia Park, the organiser of Mental Health – Make a Change which aims to raise awareness of mental health issues in Aberdeen, said: “These figures are absolutely horrendous.
“Children should be given far more support with their mental health. If they’re not getting help, that could cause permanent damage and really affect their futures.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, of the SNP, said a roll-out of a £250m package of measures to support CAMHS in Scotland was under way.
She added: “We want to make sure anyone identified as needing support can get services that are appropriate to their needs.
“That’s why we’re driving significant changes to ensure everyone gets the right treatment, at the right time and in the right place.”
NHS Grampian’s CAMHS clinical director, Dr Lynne Taylor, said the board had recently dealt with a 6% increase in children they are seeing while the Scottish average was a 5% decrease.
She added the way the board submits its data – counting first contact with a child as the starting point – makes its figures look worse than boards that do not.
“This first contact is a comprehensive appointment, including elements of treatment, and we continue to prioritise all urgent and emergency referrals,” said Dr Taylor.
“There are also no long internal waits once patients are seen within the service to ensure patients get the right help from the right person when they need it.
“There are still some children and young people in Grampian waiting longer to access our help than they – or we – would wish.
“Our waiting times were as low as 27% in 2018 but they are now at 53% (for the last quarter).”