Children in the north-east are enduring the longest waits in Scotland for mental health treatment with NHS Grampian patients waiting an average of 25 weeks.
Official NHS figures released yesterday showed NHS Grampian and NHS Highland were among nine Scottish health boards to miss a key 18 week target for children’s mental health treatment.
Less than half of youngsters referred to NHS Grampian (41.1%) were treated within the target time between October and December last year, the lowest percentage recorded by any of Scotland’s 14 health boards.
NHS Highland performed better with 82.2% of children treated within 18-weeks, recording an average wait of eight weeks. However, it was still some way short of the official target which states 90% of young patients should be treated within 18-weeks. The three island health boards met the target, achieving 98.3%.
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Across Scotland, 5,227 children and young people in Scotland had to wait more than 18 weeks for a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) appointment over the last year, a rise of 1,650 from 2017.
North East Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles said it was “appalling” the target was being missed.
“Conditions here in the north-east are even worse than elsewhere, with more than half of children not seen within the Scottish Government’s own 18 week target,” he said.
“Making young people wait months and months for treatment, after being referred by a medical professional, could have a lasting and damaging impact on the rest of their lives.”
The mental health statistics were released by NHS Scotland alongside figures showing NHS Grampian lost more than 3,000 bed days in January as a result of patients being stranded in hospital despite being fit for discharge. The figure was an increase from the 3,240 days lost in December.
A NHS Grampian spokesman said the health board was working with Integrated Joint Boards to provide a “seamless response” to the health and social care needs of patients.
On mental health, the spokesman said there had been an increase in the number of people treated by CAMH from 235 to 333 over the period in question.
The spokesman added: “The CAMHS workforce rose from 72 to 76 during the last three months of 2018 but we are the lowest staffed board in Scotland. We have a plan for funding to increase staffing levels over the next five years.”
A NHS Highland spokeswoman said the health board was “hugely sympathetic” to those with mental health need and distress. She added that the board was looking at streamlining services to create more capacity.