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Decreased waiting times for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Highlands

By Val Sweeney

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Some young people in the Highlands are waiting more than three years to see mental health specialist.
Some young people in the Highlands are waiting more than three years to see mental health specialist.

Waiting times for young people to see a mental health specialist in the Highlands have seen a reduction – although some are waiting more than three years, according to a new report.

Currently, there are 564 children and young people waiting to start specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

The Scotland-wide target is that 90 per cent start within 18 weeks of referral but a report to be presented to the NHS Highland board next Tuesday shows the figure for the Highlands is 67 per cent.

The report states: "As we continue to address the longest waits, this impacts this percentage as expected.

"A total of 564 children and young people are waiting to be seen of which 324 have waited over 18 weeks and 240 under 18 weeks. 183 have waited over one year, the longest wait being over three years. This is a significant reduction since September."

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Katherine Sutton, NHS Highland chief officer, acute, states an updated improvement plan was submitted to the Scottish Government in January and work is ongoing with Highland Council to develop services.

"Development of our intensive home treatment model and service provision for young people presenting with an eating disorder is underway," she says.

"Diversification of interventions including a focus on early intervention of group work provision and partnership delivery across specialist CAMHS, school nursing, primary mental health and third sector partners are within the planning stage."

She also reports on plans to improve the neurodevelopmental assesment service, a joint service between Highland Council and NHS Highland, for disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

"At the time of writing, there are 677 children and young people waiting to start assessment with waits of up to three years," she states.

"A further 75 children and young people are part way through assessment with some waiting more than three-and-a-half years to conclude where clinical psychology is required.

"Total waits have reduced for the last three months from a high of 879 in November 2022 to 754 currently (a 15 per cent reduction).

"Skill mix has been altered and recruitment to newly developed neurodevelopmental practitioners has been successful.

"Neurodevelopmental support practitioners are being trialled through a Test of Change."

She adds plans are being developed to further reduce waiting times with an extra 170 to 200 assessments per year beyond the current rate with an aim of reducing numbers waiting by about two-thirds and waiting times to within one year, and by March 2025 to within the target depending on staffing and ongoing funding.

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