Patterns of referral and waiting times for specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Smith, J. et al. Child & Adolescent Mental Health. Published online: 9 February 2017

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Background: During 12-month period (2012/13) around 21,480 children and young people (CYP) were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in Scotland (NHS Scotland, 2013, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services waiting times in Scotland). At the end of September 2012, there were 3,602 CYP still waiting for ‘start of treatment’ or ‘removal from the waiting list’, 375 (10%) CYP had waited over 26 weeks and 1,204 (33%) CYP had waited over 18 weeks (NHS Scotland, 2013, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services waiting times in Scotland). Referral source, referral reason and the sociodemographic characteristics of CYP are not routinely collected, and therefore, associations between these factors and wait times for ‘start of treatment’ or ‘removal from the waiting list’ (i.e. the referral outcome) are unknown.

Conclusions: Policymakers should consider ways to foster dialogue and collaboration between different groups of professionals making and accepting referrals to CAMHS in order to improve timely access to appropriate mental health support services for CYP. Research is urgently needed to investigate the experiences of CYP who are either rejected by CAMHS or wait lengthy periods of time before starting their treatment with CAMHS.

Read the full abstract here

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