Politicians’ anger as NHS Lothian child mental health waiting times worsen

Jeremy Balfour MSP
Jeremy Balfour MSP

Local politicians have reacted with fury after it was revealed child and adolescent mental health waiting times in NHS Lothian have worsened.

The latest figures from ISD show that only 58.6 per cent of patients in NHS Lothian are now being seen within 18 weeks, a decline since the previous quarter where 69.1 per cent of children were seen within 18 weeks.

The Scottish Government standard states that 90 per cent of children and young people should start treatment within 18 weeks of referral.

NHS Lothian also recorded the highest number of rejected referrals up to June 2019 in Scotland, 1709 rejections.

The statistics come a year after the Scottish Government’s commitment in the programme for government to improving mental health services for children and young people, promising “speedier access to specialist care for those who need it”.

Lothian List MSP Jeremy Balfour (Con), said: “This is another disastrous set of mental health statistics from the SNP. Vulnerable children across NHS Lothian are waiting too long for access to vital treatment.

“The health secretary has already admitted that the SNP is doing too little too late to tackle child and adolescent mental health issues.

“Last year Nicola Sturgeon committed to improving mental health services for children but now more children are waiting longer, and more young people are tragically taking their own lives.

“The repeated promises of the SNP are nothing more than hot air – the failure of the SNP to manage our health service is nothing less than catastrophic.”

Lothian List MSP Neil Findlay (Lab)said: “Young people seeking help for mental health problems are being failed by the SNP.

“Despite endless pledges from this SNP government, progress on mental health services for young people remains too slow - with thousands of children still being rejected from treatment and many more facing waits of over four months to be seen.

“This is simply not acceptable. Young people in Lothian need early intervention, and a year on from the last Programme for Government, thousands of children are still waiting on the roll out of school-based counselling.

“With the number of young people dying by suicide increasing last year, it’s more vital than ever that the Health Secretary gets to grips with this mental health crisis and ensures our young people get help when they need it.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman (SNP) said: “We want to make sure anyone who has 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.

“The rollout of our £250 million package of measures to support positive mental health for children and young people is underway.

“Its vital we strengthen the support available in communities and schools, including mental health first-aid training for local authorities by the end of the 2019-20 academic year, the rollout of 350 additional counsellors across secondary schools this academic year and training for 50 additional school nurses this year, until 250 are in training by 2022.

“This year’s Programme for Government takes this even further and includes a commitment to drive whole-system change through a new Adult Mental Health Collaborative so public services, the third sector and communities can work closer together to improve support to people suffering from mental ill health.”