NHS Lothian has assured me that it is committed to recruiting key clinical staff in order to reduce waiting times for child and adolescent mental health services. It has invested, and it will continue to invest, £3 million of additional funding in CAMHS annually. The funding aims to create new capacity and will be ring fenced, as far as possible, to start the treatment of those who have waited the longest. To date, an additional 23 staff have been recruited, with another 17 expected by the end of April.
Currently, the CAMHS additional workforce includes a range of clinical professionals from psychology, nursing and occupational therapy, and NHS Lothian will aim to recruit a cohort of administration staff to support and develop local service activities. All of that will ultimately improve current waiting times for children and young people who are seeking the services that CAMHS provides.
I thank the minister for her very full answer. My next question will be slightly broader than I had intended it to be. Given the change in circumstances that the First Minister announced yesterday, with regard to schools closing, there will clearly be an effect on the mental health of both children and adults, particularly with social isolation. Will the minister advise parents, in particular, how they should monitor and deal with such issues and what help will be available if they have to take matters to a higher level?
Mr Balfour’s question is very pertinent and topical, given the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Mental health can and will be affected by social isolation, and the current pandemic is, no doubt, having an impact on the mental health of children and young people, as well as across the general population. We are developing strategies and advice, not only for children and young people, but for the whole population, on how to keep mentally healthy and improve wellbeing, whether during self-isolation, when having to go to work or just in the general circumstances. We are progressing those pieces of work and will announce them in the coming weeks.
I am always open to hearing about service users’ and their parents’ experiences. As a national health service, we need to learn from their feedback about how we can improve services right across the country.
I share many of the concerns about younger people suffering from increased mental ill health due to stress and isolation, but what about the people who will look after them? I am talking not just about parents, but about mental health care workers. What steps are being taken to ensure that those people are not overburdened in the difficult weeks ahead, given the workloads that they will obviously have to wade through?
That is another really important issue. We are looking at it as we speak, including at how we can develop support and guidance for our mental health staff and NHS staff across the piece. There will be changes to how services are delivered, and we are working with NHS managers to ensure that staff feel supported in dealing with those changes.