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Mental health services miss target

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By Euan Maxwell
Mental health services miss target
YOUTH CHAMPION . . . councillor Adam Wilson stressed that early intervention with young people who are struggling is the key to reducing mental health waiting times

THE NUMBER of young people in the region waiting more than 18 weeks for mental health treatment rose over the past year, it has been revealed.

And Audit Scotland, which published the new figures, says this was “very likely” caused by the pandemic.

88 per cent of youngsters in Dumfries and Galloway waiting for an appointment with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) were seen within 18 weeks in 2020/21 – which is slightly short of the Scottish Government’s target of 90 per cent.

It represents a modest drop from 2019/20, when NHS Dumfries and Galloway reported that 91 per cent of under 18s waiting for treatment had been seen within the four month window.

And as a result, 163 fewer young people awaiting a CAMHS appointment were seen within 18 weeks of referral than in the year previous.

However, this year’s statistics are an improvement on those released two years ago for the 2018/19 period, when the reported figure was 85 per cent.

Furthermore, despite the rise in those waiting longer over the last year, Dumfries and Galloway continues to be one of the best regions in Scotland for youngsters seeking treatment for mental health issues; in 2020/21, the local health board had the third highest rate of youngsters attending a CAMHS appointment with 18 weeks of referral, having also been in the top three in both 2018/19 and 2019/20.

Commenting on the figures, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Young Peoples Champion, councillor Adam Wilson, stressed that early intervention with young people who are struggling is the key to reducing mental health waiting times.

He said: “It’s about finding additional resources to meet that demand and I am very hopeful that low level mental health support much earlier on will mean that in future years, we’ll see that referrals to CAMHS will either be reduced or there will be much better support provided because there has been another service available for young people in our schools much earlier on than what CAMHS is.

“It’s not to speak ill of CAMHS at all, but I think one issue we have seen over the last couple of years is the lack of early intervention.”

Councillor Wilson said that it’s “very crucial” youngsters are seen within 18 weeks of referral, adding: “The reason why that 18 week target was set by the Scottish Government themselves is because it is so crucial and no young person who’s referred to CAMHS should have to wait more than 18 weeks and the resources should be made available to make sure they’re seen well within 18 weeks.

“There is that treatment guarantee in place for a reason – and it is because the sooner that treatment begins, the much quicker the recovery will be for those children and young people.”

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