NHS Borders responds to criticisms on mental health access for children

Waiting times have now reached target.
Nick Ward, CEO at Change Mental Health.Nick Ward, CEO at Change Mental Health.
Nick Ward, CEO at Change Mental Health.

NHS Borders has defended its waiting times for children and young people accessing mental health services following criticism from a leading national charity.

Change Mental Health has unveiled what it describes as “stark inequalities” in children’s mental healthcare services across the three most rural NHS health boards in Scotland.

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Their latest report, ‘The Rural Divide: The Realities of Mental Healthcare for Children and Young People in Rural Scotland’ analyses Public Health Scotland data for the wait distribution of patients who started treatment for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in NHS Scotland from the recent quarter ending December 2023.

The NHS health boards highlighted are NHS Highland, NHS Dumfries & Galloway and NHS Borders, and the report emphasises that the Scottish Government will not meet its target of 90 per cent of children and young people starting treatment within 18 weeks of referral to CAMHS without action in these rural areas to address inequalities.

The report states that NHS Borders is the only health board where a majority of children and young people are not seen within the 18-week window.

It adds: “Despite making recent progress, it is currently the worst performing CAMHS service by waiting times in Scotland, with 60 per cent of children and young people being seen between 19 to 35 weeks, compared to 12.6 per cent across Scotland as a whole.”

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Nick Ward, CEO at Change Mental Health, said: “This report shows us that once again children and young people in some of our most rural areas aren’t getting the support they need and when they need it. There must be targeted action from the Scottish Government in tackling these significant rural inequalities.”

In response a spokesperson for NHS Borders said: “Our Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) has recently undertaken significant work to recruit to vacant posts within the service.

“As of April 2024, we are successfully meeting the national target of treating 90 per cent of patients within 18 weeks.

“We remain committed to sustaining this performance going forward.”