More than 300 vulnerable young people in Scotland have been forced to wait more than a year for mental health treatment, according to new figures.
The statistics show that over the course of the last year, 315 young people had waited 53 weeks or longer to begin treatment for child and adolescent mental health problems.
Labour described the figures as “disgraceful” and warned that longer waiting times for mental health services could worsen the conditions of patients.
The party also claimed that, under the SNP administration, there had been a 10 per cent cut in the number of educational psychologists in Scotland.
Monica Lennon, Labour’s inequalities spokeswoman, said the figures were “shocking”.
She said: “No young person seeking treatment should be waiting more than a year, but more than 300 is a national scandal.
“The longer a patient has to wait for treatment, the more likely it is that their condition will get worse along the way.”
She added: “Labour wants to see more than just warm words from the SNP government’s mental health strategy. A good starting place would be backing Labour’s plan for guaranteed access to a qualified counsellor for every high school in Scotland.
“It would cost a fraction of what the SNP government is committed to spending and is exactly the type of early intervention that we need to see in mental health treatment.”
But Maureen Watt, the Scottish government’s mental health minister, hit back, arguing that the SNP administration had improved the provision of mental health services for young people. Ms Watt said: “Under this government, the number of child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) psychology posts has more than doubled, and the overall CAMHS workforce has increased by 30 per cent since 2009.”
Ms Watt said that Scotland was the first part of the UK to have a mental health waiting times target, which, she claimed, was a clear sign of how seriously the government took the issue.
The minister added: “However, treating young people when they are ill is only one part of the mental health story. We must develop new and innovative ways to improve mental health, intervening early to prevent illness and to support people to manage their own conditions and wellbeing.
“This will be a major priority for the forthcoming mental health strategy which will set out our 10-year vision for transforming mental health in Scotland. The strategy will be backed by an additional £150 million over five years.”
Ms Watt added that a national review of health and social care targets was already under way to make sure targets were designed to ensure the best treatment for patients.
The mental health waiting times figures followed the publication of statistics showing that more than 1,300 cancer patients in Scotland had to wait more than two months to start treatment — breaching government targets.
The figures showed that, on average, 110 patients every month waited longer than 62 days for medical care after they were red-flagged by doctors for suspected cancer.
The government said that almost £500 million of new healthcare facilities, including two new hospital buildings, were expected to open this year and next. Shona Robison, the health secretary, said the continued investment in new healthcare facilities would ensure NHS Scotland remained “at the forefront of providing safe, effective and high-quality care”.