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Fifth of GP referrals to child mental health services bounced back

One in five referrals made by GPs to children’s mental health services is bounced back, official Scottish figures show.

NHS Scotland also failed to meet the Government's 18-week waiting time target for young people requiring specialist CAMHS services, figures from the Information Services Division for the first quarter of this year show.

Of the 4,333 children and young people who started their treatment at CAMHS in Scotland between January and March 2017, 83.6% were being treated 18 weeks - missing the 90% target.

In NHS Grampian and NHS Lothian, which were two of the four health boards missing the target, less than half of patients referred were seen in 18 weeks.

The figures also showed that 74 patients had been waiting for more than a year to be seen.

Of 8,730 children and young people were referred to CAMHS in the first three months of 2017, 6,892 were accepted for treatment, meaning 21% of referrals were rejected.

A similar bounce back rate was seen in the previous quarter with 8563 children and young people referred to specialist mental health services but only 6671 accepted.

The figures prompted the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) to call for an inquiry into why so many referrals are rejected and what happens to them after they are refused treatment.

A spokesperson for the SCSC said there was a clear ‘postcode lottery’ when it comes to treatment.

They added: ‘We are deeply concerned about what is happening to the more than a fifth of children and young people whose referrals for treatment are rejected.

‘There is a need for an urgent inquiry to ascertain why these young people are being rejected for treatment and what is happening to them post-rejection.’

GPC Scotland chair Dr Alan McDevitt said: ‘GPs are concerned that the needs of young people with mental health problems are not being met.

‘It is very worrying that one fifth of those referred by GPs because they need assessment and help are not receiving it.’

The news comes as a Pulse investigation revealed last year that 60% of child mental health referrals by GPs to English trusts did not lead to any treatment.

 

Readers' comments (3)

  • If a referral of a young person is rejected by CAMHS and harm comes to that person then the medico-legal consequences should be borne by the clinician who made the decision. GP referrals should never be rejected

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  • Only a fifth?? In my area it's a far higher rejection figure. CAMHS has not been fit for purpose for years. And yet their representatives still lecture GPs on "early referral", when there is no service to refer to, resulting in patient ping pong. Bouncing suicidal kids back to the school nurse (who referred to the GP in the first place) is a total disgrace.
    I hope this story gains traction, otherwise it will take a few high profile child suicides to reform a moribund CAMHS.

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  • Whenever we get a referral bounced back we always write a letter back stating that the services has failed to assess and examine the patient and in our opinion they need specialist input and ask them to confirm that they accept full clinical responsibility for the patient. Unsurprisingly almost all are then offered an appointment.

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