SAMH comment on latest CAMHS stats

15th March 2022

SAMH comment on new Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) stats:

Today (Tuesday 15 March 2022), new figures from Public Health Scotland showed that 23.15% of referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) were rejected for the quarter ending December 2021, compared to 27.05% the previous quarter.

4,544 children and young started treatment in this quarter, an increase of 19.8% from the previous quarter; with 70.3% being seen with 18 weeks, down from 78.6% the previous quarter.

Commenting on the figures,  Alex Cumming, interim director of operations at SAMH said:

“While it’s encouraging to see the number of rejected referrals to CAMHS fall this quarter; thousands of children and young people are still being turned away from specialist services and support, with many telling us that they need to be at crisis point before help is offered. 

“The current system is failing. Where else in the health service would we see referrals for support being rejected at this rate, or people waiting for this length of time to access help?

“Of course, CAMHS isn’t and shouldn’t be the only answer. Young people should have the option to access support in a variety of settings which best meet their needs and the investment in community based mental health services is a positive step.

“We’ve been encouraged to see school counselling services rolled out across Scotland, providing a valuable service to young people. However, it’s not clear if there is a significant number of counsellors available to schools – the schools we work with tell us that while it’s a great initiative, more capacity is needed, particularly in areas of deprivation.

“It is time for action that leads to tangible improvements in the care and support of young people.”

We’re recently spoken to a number of families who have tried to access their local CAMHS service but had their referral rejected, including Helen and Elaine.

  • Helen’s* son was referred to CAMHS during the pandemic, for his anxiety. When his referral was rejected, Helen said:

“I was devastated in that I thought, ‘what do I do now? Where do I go? What is my next step?’”

“[CAMHS is] the be all and end all of mental health services, but severely understaffed and underfunded. It’s not their fault, they are doing their best, but they don’t have the capacity to treat all kids referred to them.”


  • Elaine* has tried to get her son referred to CAMHS for many years through his school and GP. A referral was made last year but was rejected.

Not much support was given at all to me or my son. We weren’t even directed to the right support or other services… The waiting list didn’t bother me, but having our feelings pushed aside and not listened to is so deflating.

I’ve had conversations with [my son] and he feels like he has been abandoned. As a parent, and not a professional, I don’t know all the support he should be getting. It needs to be that kids feel that someone is listening and take them seriously. That will help their mental health.”


*Not real names