Prescription of Stimulants (Under-10s)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd October 2017.

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Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to reports that there are almost twice as many under-10s being prescribed stimulants than there were in 2010. (S5T-00707)

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has worked with a number of organisations to help reduce the stigma faced by people with mental health problems. As that stigma has reduced, it is welcome that more people and families have come forward for help with mental health problems. We believe that that is a positive sign that people feel more able to come forward to get help.

The rise in the number of prescriptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is reflective of the general increase in demand for child and adolescent mental health services. The majority of young people with ADHD are not receiving medication as part of their treatment but are, instead, receiving alternative support as set out in the Scottish intercollegiate guidelines network guideline 112. The most important consideration is that people with any mental illness should expect and receive the same standard of care as people with physical illness. Any prescribing is a professional, clinical decision for a patient’s doctor and it should be appraised on a regular basis.

Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

I received my diagnosis of ADHD later in life, at the age of 35. My diagnosis and subsequent therapy have transformed my life

. However, the most important element of that therapy is the medication that I take on a daily basis. My only regret is that I did not receive that diagnosis and, indeed, that therapy earlier in life. The minister will have seen the coverage in yesterday’s

The Herald

, which is part of a weekly series that the newspaper is running on Scotland’s supposed overreliance on drugs. However, the Royal College of Psychiatrists is clear that, if anything, we are probably underdiagnosing children with ADHD, with the rate of prescribing being roughly one third that of the children with the most serious form of ADHD.

Does the minister agree that such sensationalist coverage and comments from the Conservatives are unhelpful and that we should be seeking to promote understanding of the condition and not stigmatising children who take medication for ADHD or other mental health and neurological conditions?

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

I thank the member very much for sharing his experience of ADHD with the Parliament this afternoon. He is absolutely right. More children and young people have ADHD than are coming forward. Fewer people are prescribed drugs and more are given alternative therapies. I thank the member for showing that medication has an important part to play, but I re-emphasise that it is prescribed in consultation with the person’s general practitioner, and hopefully it can be reduced if that is the right thing to do.

I totally agree with the member’s observation about the Opposition.

Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour


I thank the minister for that response. I agree with her about the need to emphasise the importance of medication.

Responding to the coverage, the Scottish ADHD Coalition mentioned the need for better training of our teachers and access to child and adolescent mental health services. We know from the Education and Skills Committee’s recent work that teachers are not adequately trained in additional support needs, and although there are counsellors in schools across the rest of the United Kingdom, in Scotland’s schools there is no guarantee of such provision. What steps will be taken to improve training for teachers in dealing with children with ADHD and other additional support needs? Will the minister meet my party’s call for every school to have access to a counsellor?

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

As the member knows, the first of the 40 actions in the mental health strategy is a review of personal and social education in schools. Some schools already provide access to school-based counselling while others use the skills of pastoral staff and liaise with educational psychology services.

We want to make sure that all children and young people get the support that they need to reach their full potential, and the additional support for learning legislation places on education authorities duties to identify, provide for and review additional support needs. We are taking forward the PSE review as expeditiously as possible.

Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

Is the minister confident that families across Scotland are always being offered access to high-quality behavioural therapists? What additional action does the Scottish Government plan to take to increase the number of behavioural therapists who are available to support parents and primary-age children and to reduce waiting times for that therapy?

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

As I said in my answer to Daniel Johnson, access to services is available through schools. The Scottish Government has worked with Education Scotland to produce “The Matrix: A Guide to Delivering Evidence-Based Psychological Therapies in Scotland”, a section in which is dedicated to ADHD. Drugs for ADHD are prescribed in line with good clinical practice, under on-going supervision and where appropriate. As I said, they are used alongside other treatments such as counselling and psychological therapies.

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

I thank Daniel Johnson for sharing his story of diagnosis and treatment. It is vital that those of us in the Parliament break down the stigma surrounding mental illness at all ages.

What change has there been in the number of CAMHS professionals under this Government? In particular, what change has there been in the number of CAMHS psychology posts?

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

Under this Government, the number of CAMHS psychological posts has more than doubled and the overall number of CAMHS professionals has increased by 65 per cent to almost 1,000 full-time equivalent staff.