Over 2000 young people in Scotland have waited over a year for specialist mental health support


Original image: Andriyko Podilnyk

The number of children and young people waiting over a year for specialist mental health services in Scotland has increased almost three-fold over the past 12 months.


According to new data from Public Health Scotland, those waiting over a year for their first appointment with Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) at the end of March this year sat at 2012.


The number – which is the worst on record – is almost 190% higher than the 695 in line for the same amount of time in March of last year.


Nationwide, almost 1 in 5 (18.3%) young people waiting for a CAMHS appointment at the end of March had been waiting a year or more, but areas like NHS Highland (36.9%) and NHS Lothian (32.8%) had even worse figures.


A further 3519 young people have been waiting between 19 and 52 weeks.


The same report also says that the government's 90% target for the proportion of young people seen within 18 weeks of referral to CAMHS is being missed too – just 72.5% were seen within this timeframe between January and March this year.



Graph of proportion of patients who received CAMHS support within 18 weeks of referral
Percentage of patients who started treatment in CAMHS within 18 weeks of referral. The target has been consistently missed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the 11,007 young people waiting at the end of March, 5531 had been waiting longer that 18 weeks.


Speaking to The Herald, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie described the data as evidence of a "crisis" for CAMHS in Scotland:


“That over 2,000 young people have waited over a year for vital treatment is nothing short of a scandal," said Baillie.


“We know that the pandemic has had a serious impact on the mental health of our young people – the Scottish Government simply cannot continue to fail them.”


Read more: NHS struggling to meet rising demand for children's mental health services

A similar picture was recently revealed for CAMHS services in England through a survey by NHS Providers.


Of the 35 NHS Trust leaders from across the country who took part in the survey, two-thirds said their Trust was unable to meet demand for community and in-patient CAMHS services.


Of all services, eating disorder support has been particularly affected with 85% of Trusts unable to meet demand.


“These frightening statistics highlight the challenges ahead and a commitment by MSPs to focus on mental health, increasing investment in support services and intervention strategies, must be a priority for this parliament," said a spokesperson for the Scottish Children's Service Coalition, in response to PHS' findings.


“We have for some time raised concerns over a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people, whose mental health is being impacted even further by the COVID-19 pandemic.


“This is a crisis we can overcome, but it will require a similar energy and commitment to that demonstrated for COVID-19 if we are to achieve this and prevent many young people giving up on their futures.”


To read the full report on CAMHS waiting times in Scotland, click here.


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health