Mental Health Issues (Young People)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th February 2020.

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Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

5. To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to support young people dealing with mental health issues. (S5F-03948)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

We are determined to ensure that any young person who requires support for their mental health has their needs meet. We are taking forward a programme of work to transform the children and young people’s mental health system, with a focus on prevention and early intervention. We have invested

£250 million over five years to support positive mental health for children and young people, in addition to £58 million over the past four years, specifically to improve access to child and adolescent mental health services.

This week, we launched a new national CAMHS service specification, which was developed in partnership with young people and their families, and which outlines the level of provision that they can—and should—expect to receive when they are referred for help within the national health service. We will work closely with NHS boards on implementation of the specification.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

Currently, one in five young people is rejected from CAMHS, and about 20 per cent have to seek multiple referrals in their attempts to get help. The audit of rejected referrals recommended that a multi-agency assessment system should be developed, which would, in effect, end multiple referrals. This week, the Government published its new CAMHS specification framework, which does not mention a multi-agency assessment system, gives no clarity on the referral criteria for CAMHS and offers no guarantee of a face-to-face assessment. Given those significant omissions, what assurances can the First Minister give to young people that they will get the help that they need at the first time of asking?

The First Minister:

As I said in my original answer, this week we have launched the new service specification, which has been developed in partnership with young people and their families. I am sure that the Minister for Mental Health would be happy to have further discussion on particular details of that, if the member wants to pursue that.

More generally, I readily recognise the issues of rejected referrals and long waiting times for access to specialist child and adult mental health services. That is exactly why we are not just investing, but are seeking to transform, the nature of those services, so that more support is available for young people in the community. We are investing in more counsellors in schools, and in the creation of the new national wellbeing service, so that young people who need specialist services get quicker access to them, and so that those who do not need them are treated in the community. Currently, some young people are being referred to CAMHS because there is no adequate community provision. We are working on and investing in rebalancing that.

Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

Studies from across the United Kingdom have shown that a significant proportion of individuals who are being treated with antidepressants actually have undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Given the Government’s failure to tackle long waits for CAMHS, what will the Government do to ensure that young people receive appropriate mental health diagnoses and the specialist support that they need?

The First Minister:

As Mary Fee will recognise, it is not for me, as a politician, to comment on prescribing decisions. It is important that clinicians decide on the appropriate prescriptions for patients. In essence, my response is the same as the one that I gave to Brian Whittle: we recognise the need for a broader range of services being available for people with mental health challenges, and for more services to be available in the community, which is particularly important for young people. That is why the investment—which I have already spoken about—in rebalancing provision of mental health treatment services is so important. As I said, individual prescribing decisions will always be for clinicians, but I hope that, in the longer term, that investment helps to address the issue that Mary Fee has raised.