NHS Forth Valley chiefs have defended their efforts to cut the CAMHS waiting times backlog as more than 600 still wait for support.
The latest figures from Public Health Scotland have revealed that a total of 616 children and young people were on the list for help at the end of 2021 – with only 17.4 per cent of these waiting the guideline of 18 weeks or fewer.
The shocking data shows that almost 40 per cent of people on the CAMHS waiting list in Forth Valley have been on hold for more than a year, with another 21.3 per cent waiting between nine months and a year for help.
It represents the lowest percentage across Scotland’s health boards and sits significantly below the national average of 54 per cent waiting 18 weeks or fewer.
Meanwhile, a total of 111 people were seen in the three-month period from October to December 2021 in Forth Valley, with 57.7 per cent of these within the target time.
An NHS Forth Valley spokesperson stressed that a “redesign” of the service – which went live in January – is hoped to deliver better results in clearing the backlog of those stuck in the system.
The spokeswoman also said the health board was working to improve access to community based services, including a partnership with GP practices to allow young people to access primary care mental health workers.
A new collaboration with a local independent provider will also help with improving the CAMHS service’s capacity.
The NHS Forth Valley spokesperson said: “In NHS Forth Valley our CAMHS team are continuing to focus on seeing patients who have been waiting the longest and those children with significant mental health difficulties who require urgent assessment and treatment.
“We continue to experience an increase in unscheduled care presentations, in particular children and young people with significant eating disorders and those struggling directly or indirectly with the impact on Covid-19 on children’s mental health and wellbeing.
“Work continues to target children and young people who have experienced longer waits and the service redesigned going live in January with a new model of service delivery.
“The team are optimistic that the new service redesign will reduce waiting times for children.
“Recent data indicates the waiting list has reduced by over 100 children to 533 children on the waiting list, and less than 100 of these waiting more than 52 weeks and believe this partnership approach with various agencies will have a positive impact on delivery of services.
“Over the past few months a number of vacancies have been successfully filled and additional staff have been recruited following national investment in CAMHS services.
“The Scottish Government has set a target of March 2023 to reduce the backlog of children waiting to be seen by CAMHS and we are confident that we will achieve this locally in NHS Forth Valley.
The local response comes after the group representing psychiatrists in Scotland criticized the lack of support from ministers in trying to tackle issues with CAMHS waiting times across Scotland.
Dr Helen Smith, chairwoman of the CAMHS Faculty at Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: “With waiting times on the rise again, the Scottish Government really need to be stepping up a gear when it comes to the mental health of our children and young people.
“CAMHS desperately need more staff to be able to deliver specialist care and there also needs to be much greater co-ordination between services to ensure every young person gets the right support they need at the right time.
“Early intervention is necessary to prevent a generation of young people suffering with mental health difficulties.”