THE number of children attending hospital for issues relating to self-harm has risen to its highest level since 2007.

A total of 1,400 children were admitted to NHS acute hospitals last year having self-harmed, figures show.

Experts warned this was just the "tip of the iceberg".

Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs called the statistics "truly shocking" and said the coronavirus crisis had "clearly exacerbated" the problem.

Since 2007, more than 14,000 youngsters have attended hospital with self-harming issues, alongside almost 125,000 adults.

The number of children affected has totalled more than 1,000 in each year since 2013.

Last year's figure marked a significant rise from 2019, when 1,141 such cases were recorded, and was almost double the 723 admissions recorded in 2011.

The Tories warned the figures for this year could be even worse due to the impact of the pandemic.

The statistics were published in a parliamentary answer to Mr Briggs.

However, they are likely to underestimate the scale of the problem. 

Figures for self-harm presentations at A&E departments, psychiatric inpatient hospitals and outpatient settings were not published due to data quality issues.

And in his response to Mr Briggs, SNP mental wellbeing minister Kevin Stewart also noted: "Many people with self-harm related injuries are not treated as acute inpatients, or do not present to NHS hospitals. 

"Therefore, the data provided will likely be an undercount of self-harm related injuries in the period 2007-2020."

Mr Briggs said: “These figures are truly shocking. 

"They lay bare the devastating effects the pandemic has had on our young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Covid has clearly exacerbated the problem but this distressing issue cannot be blamed entirely on the pandemic. 

"There is a clear long-term trend that keeps getting worse.

“There were already far too many children and young people waiting for mental health treatment before Covid struck and those queues are growing. 

“These statistics confirm the pressing need for more urgency from the Scottish Government. 

"The faster that people get treatment, the less likely they are to harm themselves.

"The Scottish Conservatives will continue to push for at least 10 per cent of the health budget to be ring-fenced for mental health services to ensure that vulnerable youngsters get the support they need immediately.”

Dr Helen Smith, chairwoman of Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: "These figures are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to young people seeking medical help for self-harm.

"Not everyone will attend hospital and the statistics don't touch on the many young people who end up in A&E.

"Working on the ground, we know self-harm amongst children is increasing. There is also a postcode lottery when it comes to mental health spend.

"Although we welcomed the recent funding announcement for CAMHS, it's still not there yet. 

"That's why we're calling on the Scottish Government to deliver on its commitment to increase spending on CAMHS to 1% by 2026."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Mental health is a priority for the Scottish Government, and we are committed to ensuring that everyone who needs support can access services appropriate to their needs.

“We are working with stakeholders to develop compassionate, person-centred support for people in distress, including those who self-harm.  

"It is crucial that we work to reduce stigma to ensure people feel safe and encouraged to seek the help they need.

“Our Mental Health recovery plan, backed with £120 million, sets out wider steps in response to the pandemic.

"We have allocated £29.2m to NHS Boards to improve CAMHS, with £4.25m focused on offering treatment to those already on waiting lists this year.

"We will continue to work with NHS Boards to support the development and implementation of their local recovery plans and to target investment to improve access to CAMHS.

“We have also allocated an additional £15m to local authorities to deliver mental health and wellbeing support for children and young people in their communities, and more than 200 new and enhanced supports and services have been established.

"In addition, we have provided councils with £16m to ensure every secondary school has access to counselling, while a professional learning resource for school staff has been developed which includes recognising signs of self-harm and knowing how to respond.”