A group of parents unhappy over the care their children receive from mental health services took their campaign to the Scottish Parliament.
Members of the CAMHS Forth Valley Parent Voices group met with Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt on Tuesday to put forward their demand for a full review into mental health services.
Following the 45-minute sit-down, the five mums and grandmother unfurled their banner outside the parliament building before marching with it up The Royal Mile to publicise their plight.
Hundred of parents have come forward with serious concerns over NHS Forth Valley’s Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), with issues on a national level sparking a review into rejected referrals.
The Scottish Government has pledged an audit on rejections, which is one of the biggest issues for parents who say their children are left in limbo after CAMHS refuse treatment or fail to diagnose, which can sometimes take years.
Parents, however, want the audit to go further and review the service from top to bottom.
Mother-of-two Katie Sneddon (30) from Bo’ness, who formed the group due to issues with her eight-year-old son’s care, said: “ We are very pleased with how the meeting went and the minister recognised that there is a crisis in CAMHS.
“We are also happy that the government is looking into what has happened with rejected referrals, but we feel a review into the whole service is needed and we will not stop until there is a full review.
“Every parent who has contacted this group, and there has been scores of them, say they feel bitterly let down by their treatment or the care that’s been provided to them or their children, some to the point it has adversely affected their childrens’ health, as well as their own in many cases.
“Answers are needed and the only way to get them is a full review. We handed over 58 case files to Mrs Watt so we will wait and see what happens now.”
She added: “We also spoke with MSPs Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) and Bruce Crawford (Stirling) who say they will be raising our concerns in parliament.”
Mrs Watt announced a new strategy to improve mental health care in Scotland in March which includes a further £35 million for 800 additional mental health workers.
Following the meeting with the Forth Valley parents she gave no assurance a full review would be carried out.
Mrs Watt said: “I was pleased to have the opportunity to hear the concerns of representatives from CAMHS Forth Valley Parent’s Voices today to discuss how to improve the standard of care from CAMHS, including the quality and continuity of service.
“An improvement team has already been working with NHS Forth Valley to improve waiting times for CAMHS. The most recent statistics showed that 94.8 per cent of children and young people were seen within the 18 week target time – significantly up from 51.1 per cent in the previous quarter.
“Following the publication of the new strategy for mental health services, we will be commissioning a review into rejected child and adolescent mental health service referrals as a foundation for making further improvements.
“Working with stakeholders will be key to building on the actions of the strategy over the next decade.”
Scottish Labour inequalities spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “It’s clear that a greater focus on early intervention is absolutely crucial. The SNP Government needs to listen to the lived experience of parents and children dealing with CAMHS and act without delay.
“Increased early intervention support is vital – including committing to Scottish Labour’s plan for a trained counsellor to be made available in every school.”
NHS Forth Valley say the mental health services for children and young people, which supports 2000 families across the area, have changed significantly over the last year to help increase capacity and reduce waiting times – which showed a 43.7 per cent improvement in the latest quarterly figures.
Additional staff have been recruited in all areas, including intensive treatment nurses to provide support to children and young people in crisis, additional child psychologists and a specialist speech and language therapist. Work is also under way to form a new parents forum to increase engagement and gather feedback from families and the health board is urging families to raise concerns with them directly so they can investigate any issues.