By Lucy Ashton
New First Minister Humza Yousaf must “urgently up his game” to ensure that young people across Scotland can access the mental health support they need, the Scottish Conservatives demand today.
The call from the party’s deputy leader and shadow minister for children and young people Meghan Gallacher comes after Freedom of Information requests from the party revealed “shocking” new level of vacancies within mental health services.
There are currently 190 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) vacancies in Scotland.
The party’s FOI found that almost 90 of the vacancies were left unfilled for at least three months, while over 30 had been advertised for over half a year.
The findings come against a backdrop of the latest CAMHS waiting times showing only 70.1% of children and young people were seen within the SNP government’s target time of 18 weeks since they were referred for treatment.
Meghan Gallacher says Humza Yousaf failed to “get on top” of the mental health issue.
Meghan Gallacher says Humza Yousaf failed to “get on top” of this issue during his failed tenure as health secretary and he cannot allow the mental health crisis to “spiral out of control” now he is in the top job.
She added: “These figures once again highlight how the SNP are presiding over a mental health crisis among our children and young people.
“They are being left behind by this SNP government. Humza Yousaf – during his awful tenure as health secretary – failed to get on top of this issue.
“Now he is in the top job, he cannot let this crisis completely spiral out of control.
“As he tries to support our vulnerable children and young people, he could start by ensuring these shocking levels of vacancies are filled as a matter of agency.
“Crucial CAMHS vacancies are going unfilled for months on end. It is clear that dire workforce planning by Humza Yousaf and other SNP health secretaries means that mental health services cannot meet the huge demand they are experiencing.
“Even before the Covid pandemic, SNP ministers had consistently failed to meet their own targets for vulnerable young people to be seen on time.
“And since then, lockdowns and other restrictions have only deepened the mental health crisis among Scotland’s young people, from primary school pupils to students and beyond. Humza Yousaf and the SNP have completely taken their eye off the ball when it comes to this crisis.
“Humza Yousaf must urgently up his game. He needs to identify new ways in which young people can receive the support they vitally need and ensure our health boards and organisations have every resource they need to make that happen.”
There are 190 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) vacancies. Freedom of information requests reveal that as of December 2022 there was 190 whole time equivalent vacancies in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in NHS Scotland. (FOI available on request).
89 vacancies were left unfilled for at least 3 months. Freedom of information requests reveal 100 vacancies had been advertised for 0-3 months, 56 vacancies had been advertised for 3-6 months and 33 vacancies had been advertised for over 6 months. (FOI available on request).
The SNP Government are still almost 20% off meeting their CAMHS target. In the quarter ending December 2022, 70.1% of children and young people were seen within 18 weeks of referral. The Scottish Government standard states that 90% of children and young people should start treatment within 18 weeks of referral to CAMHS. (CAMHS waiting times, 7 March 2023, link).
More young people are also being referred to CAMHS services: 10,201 children and young people were referred to CAMHS in Scotland for quarter ending December 2022. This is an increase of 19.4% (8544) compared to the previous quarter and 1.8% (10,021) for the same quarter ending December 2021.
Top picture: Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow.