I've condemned the Scottish Government’s refusal to deliver a step change in mental health through the budget after new figures showed worsening waits for adults and 739 children waited longer than the Scottish Government’s guarantee.
The ISD Scotland statistics showed just two NHS Boards met the 18-week referral to treatment standard for psychological therapies. Of those who started treatment in the quarter ending December 2016, almost a quarter – 2,500 patients - weren’t seen within 18 weeks.
Meanwhile, only half of health boards met the 18-week waiting guarantee for children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in the final quarter of 2016. In NHS Grampian, the target was missed for more than 50% of children while in NHS Lothian 160 children have been forced to wait over a year for treatment.
It is a sign of this Scottish Government’s lack of ambition that they are celebrating figures showing most health boards still routinely missing waiting time targets.
In NHS Lothian, my own health board area, 467 children and adults have been forced to wait over a year for treatment – figures that I certainly don’t find “encouraging”. SNP ministers should be embarrassed that they have failed patients to this extent. Staff are working around the clock but they aren’t getting the support they need.
These dreadful figures should come as no surprise to a government that allowed their mental health strategy to expire 15 months ago and have consistently reduced the share of the NHS budget spent in this area.
That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats made the case for a stepchange in mental health during the recent budget negotiations. However, the SNP settled for a grey and timid budget with the Greens, turning down the chance to invest to end the crisis in children’s mental health and put new mental health professionals in GP surgeries and A&E departments.