Psychiatric services in Scotland are facing a “workforce crisis”, with children’s provision among the worst affected, a healthcare body has claimed.

Figures from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) show that around one in 10 consultant psychiatrist posts in Scotland remain unfilled - up from one in 16 in 2017.

The data, from RCPsych’s 2019 census, also reveals that vacancy rates are particularly high in the country’s child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs), with more than one in six consultant posts unfilled.

This comes at a time of soaring demand for Camhs services, the organisation claimed.

Professor John Crichton, consultant forensic psychiatrist and chair of RCPsych in Scotland, said: “These findings are very alarming. We have a workforce crisis on our hands and need more junior doctors to choose psychiatry.

“We have an older workforce with many psychiatrists expected to retire within the next five years.

“At the other end of the spectrum, junior doctors who decide to pursue a career in psychiatry need to spend six years training before gaining consultant status.

“We are also seeing a decrease in the numbers of those choosing to progress from core to higher psychiatric training.

“Simply put the supply does not meet the demand and that’s why we’re encouraging young doctors to choose psychiatry and help get our workforce up to speed so vital mental health services can improve.

“It’s also important that we support doctors in terms of well-being, so they remain in their posts and those working towards the end of their careers return to work after taking their pension.”

He added: “We welcome the recent Scottish Government announcements on foundation year posts and increasing Scottish domiciled medical students, but much more needs to be done.”

The Scottish Government standard states that 90% of children and young people should start treatment within 18 weeks of referral to Camhs.

However, the research found that just under seven out of 10 (69.7%) children and young people were seen within 18 weeks in the three months to June 2019, down from 73.6% for the previous quarter and 67.5% for the quarter ending June 2018.

Charlie MacKenzie, from Glasgow, waited eight years to finally get the specialist mental health treatment she needed.

The 21-year-old has autism, borderline personality disorder and complex PTSD.

Her first interaction with Camhs was aged seven when she went for an assessment but was rejected for treatment. She was eventually accepted eight years later.

She said: “My mental health is better than it once was, but I still have my ups and downs.

“If I had been seen quicker way back when this all started, then I might have not had the same mental health problems.

“We urgently need more psychiatrists, especially within Camhs.”

A Scottish Children’s Services Coalition spokeswoman described the figures as “deeply disturbing”.

She added: “These troubling findings come at a time when we are experiencing a mental health epidemic, with more than a quarter of those being referred to Camhs in the period April to June not being treated within the Scottish Government’s 18-week target, still in itself far too long.

“The Scottish Government and other relevant organisations clearly need to do more to encourage entry into consultant positions.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “While there remain unfilled consultant psychiatrist vacancies in a number of health boards, over the past five years we have increased the number of posts and in 2018 we saw a significant improvement in recruitment to psychiatric specialities. There has also been an increase of 15% in the number of Camhs psychiatrists since March 2016.

“We are investing £54 million to improve access to mental health services for adults and children, providing funding for additional staff and workforce development.”