Page last updated at 06:42 GMT, Tuesday, 23 June 2009 07:42 UK

Concern over child health service

Girl on bed
The committee said children under five were being neglected

Those in charge of health services for youngsters are failing in their task, MSPs have warned.

Holyrood's health committee said the issue seemed "not to have been a priority" for the people responsible for implementing policy.

The committee also said children under five years of age were being neglected, and raised a series of other concerns about services.

Ministers said £2m a year was being used to boost services.

The cross-party health committee's comments came in the wake of an inquiry into mental health services for young children and teenagers.

MSPs said some progress had been made - but raised concern that the commitment to halve the number young people admitted to adult hospital beds by 2009 had not been met.

Child and adolescent mental health services clearly need champions
Christine Grahame
Scottish Parliament health committee

They also warned the current target to implement an agreed framework on services by 2015 could not be properly monitored.

The committee's report stated: "Despite the commitment of the Scottish Government and previous Scottish ministers at a policy level, the existence of an agreed framework and the devotion, good work and admirable efforts of many individuals across the field, mental health and well-being seems not to have been a priority among those responsible for delivering the policy."

The committee also said it was "deeply concerned" at the extent of waiting times for services, adding that delays in providing mental health services in children's panel cases were "totally unacceptable".

On services for children under five-years-old, the report said "substantial damage" had been done by cutting health visitors, stating: "Disturbingly, the committee uncovered evidence that this group is neglected."

Trial scheme

The health committee's convener, Nationalist MSP Christine Grahame, said: "Child and adolescent mental health services clearly need champions, having been a Cinderella service for many years."

The government said that, in addition to the £2m of annual funding, £6.5m was being spent over three years to support specialist staff.

Ministers added that the framework for boosting services, introduced in 2005, set out the standards every child should receive.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "As a programme based on need, it ensures health visitors and public health nurses can target their services to support the most vulnerable children and families.

"It is really important children and young people who experience problems with their mental health are given the best possible care, treatment and support to reach their full potential in life."

The government also said it was trialling a community nursing scheme in four health board areas, where teams would assess children for mental health issues.

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