THE NUMBER of children and young people forced to wait more than a year for mental health treatment in Scotland has soared to the highest figure on record.

The new statistics, released today by Public Health Scotland show that by the end of March, 2,012 children and young people had been waiting more than a year to receive treatment from specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) treatment – provided by the NHS.

The new figures are the worst on record and the waiting list has almost trebled in the space of a year.

The data also shows that only 72.5 per cent of children and young people seen had waited less than 18 weeks, despite the Scottish Government standard that 90% of children and young people should start treatment within 18 weeks of referral to CAMHS.

Scottish Labour has demanded action to clear the waiting lists.

READ MORE: NHS Highland: Young patient waiting more than three years for mental health help

The party’s deputy leader and health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said: “Today’s statistics plainly show that CAMHS services are in crisis.

“That over 2,000 young people have waited over a year for vital treatment is nothing short of a scandal.

“We know that the pandemic has had a serious impact on the mental health of our young people – the Scottish Government simply cannot continue to fail them.”

She added: “Scottish Labour is committed to delivering the mental health services that the people of Scotland deserve, including bringing mental health funding to the level provided in England and Wales.

“It’s time for the SNP to stop failing the young people of Scotland and work with Labour to deliver the CAMHS services that we need.”

Scottish Conservative mental health spokesperson, Craig Hoy, added: “These figures are appalling and underline the scale of the mental health crisis engulfing children and young people across Scotland.

“Prior to the pandemic, the SNP’s record on ensuring vulnerable youngsters were seen as quickly as possible was simply unacceptable. The Covid crisis and ongoing lockdown restrictions have only increased mental health issues among our young people and this means SNP Ministers must get a grip of this challenge now.

“We need an urgent plan from SNP ministers to guarantee that vulnerable young people will be seen as quickly as possible and health boards given every resource they need to tackle mental health.

“The Scottish Conservatives will continue to push for ten per cent of the Scottish health budget to be spent directly supporting mental health services.

“For thousands of young people waiting for vital mental health support, this is a totally unacceptable situation which cannot be allowed to continue.”

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading providers of children’s services, has called on politicians to prioritise improving mental health services.

A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “These frightening statistics highlight the challenges ahead and a commitment by MSPs to focus on mental health, increasing investment in support services and intervention strategies, must be a priority for this parliament.

READ MORE: Mental health of young people in Scotland at risk

“We have for some time raised concerns over a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people, whose mental health is being impacted even further by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is a crisis we can overcome, but it will require a similar energy and commitment to that demonstrated for Covid-19 if we are to achieve this and prevent many young people giving up on their futures.”

Mental Wellbeing Minister, Kevin Stewart, said: “We’re determined to reduce long waits for child and adolescent mental health services.

“That’s why we have allocated over £29 million to NHS boards to improve CAMHS, with £4.25 million to specifically address waiting lists.

“While its welcome that we’re seeing sustained improvement in parts of the country we want to go further and see that delivered consistently across the country. To ensure this we are developing a programme of enhanced support for areas where waits are unacceptably long.”