THE Scottish Government has offered reassurance after coming in for criticism over worsening mental health waiting times in the Borders.

According to data from Public Health Scotland, 46.1 per cent of patients under the age of 18 were seen within the target of 18 weeks in the first quarter of this year.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Long waits for mental health treatment are unacceptable and we continue to work with Health Boards to ensure 90 per cent of patients begin treatment within 18 weeks of referral."

Borders MP John Lamont has claimed that there has been a "shortfall in investment" into mental health services in the region.

The Conservative, who represents Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, added: “Like everyone in the community, I am hugely grateful for the continued hard work of all NHS Borders staff.

"There is a clear shortfall in investment in mental health services in the Borders.

"Steps to address this are necessary for the sake of the mental wellbeing of our community.

“I have called for urgent action by the Cabinet Secretary and will closely scrutinise the urgent action plan that I have requested.

"Borderers deserve markedly better access to mental health services, and I will not rest until the Scottish Government delivers this.”

The Scottish Government said almost £100,000 had been given to NHS Borders "directly aimed" at improving the figures.

The spokesperson added: “NHS Borders have received over £810,000 additional funding for CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] improvement through our Mental Health Recovery & Renewal Fund, with nearly £100,000 of this directly aimed at reducing waiting times.

"This is part of an overall £40 million investment to enable boards to improve CAMHS and clear all backlogs by March 2023.

“In addition, we have recently written to NHS Borders to offer additional tailored improvement support for CAMHS over the coming months.

"This include regular engagement with those in charge of mental health services, monitoring progress with reducing waiting lists and recruitment.

“More generally, we have introduced counselling support services in all secondary schools, we are developing mental health services in primary care, and have provided an additional £15 million to councils to deliver locally based mental health and wellbeing support for 5-24 year olds in their communities.”

NHS Borders told us "considerable staffing shortages in recent years" had contributed to longer waiting times.

A spokesperson said: "While this is not what we would wish for our patients, we are working hard with the support of the Scottish Government so we can see more patients who are being referred to our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) within the 18-week target.

“Unfortunately, considerable staffing shortages in recent years were compounded by the availability of suitably qualified CAMHS clinicians. We have made some progress recruiting to vacant and additional posts which will allow us to make progress in reducing our waiting lists. We are focusing on seeing patients who have been waiting the longest first which directly impacts our 18-week waiting time targets as we are prioritising those who have waited more than 18 weeks.”