SAMH Comment on Psychological Therapies Waiting Times

5th March 2019

Today we saw the latest figures for both Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and psychological therapies.

In recent years we’ve seen the mental health conversation open up across the country, and it’s now firmly on the Scottish Government’s agenda. We were particularly pleased to see the most recent Programme for Government pay greater attention to mental health than ever before, committing an investment of over £250 million over the next five years.

During this time  we have seen a lot of focus on the regularly published statistics on the availability of mental health services for children and young people. These services are vital, and we are closely monitoring progress on improvements, particularly for those who do not meet the threshold for CAMHS. We are hopeful that the work of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Task Force will make a positive difference in this area and we will undoubtedly be commenting on this again in the future.

However adult services are equally as important, yet today’s figures show the 18 week waiting time target for psychological therapies has still not been met. That is why today, we have chosen to talk about this issue.

When we are feeling low or anxious, many of us find it useful to talk to someone. This is why psychological therapies – treatments for mental health which are based around talking to a specially trained therapist - are often recommended by official medical guidance for people struggling with their mental health.

Scotland was the first country in the world to set waiting times targets for psychological therapies, but the 18 week target is still not being met by all NHS Boards, eight years after it was first introduced. This quarter we saw no change in the percentage of people being seen within 18 weeks, and just one NHS Board meeting the target.

SAMH’s report ‘Talking it Out’ found that when people received a psychological therapy that it helped both at the time and later in life. However, the longer people waited for treatment, the more likely it was that their mental health deteriorated. This waiting period can be very difficult at a time when someone is already struggling with their mental health.

One person told us: “It was a very difficult period in my life, and has become exacerbated through the waiting and unable to receive the correct help and the time I needed it most.”

Billy Watson, Chief Executive of SAMH said:

“We were delighted to see the recent Programme for Government’s focus on children and young people’s mental health services, but we can’t lose sight of the importance of adult services. It is unacceptable that NHS Boards are continuing to not meet the waiting time target for psychological therapies.

“Our research shows that the faster people get access to psychological therapies, the more they will benefit. That’s why we need an urgent focus on meeting this target”.