WEE COUNTY children seeking mental health treatment have been "let down at every turn" after a slump in waiting times standards.

Between April and June this year, only 49.6 per cent of young patients saw a professional at NHS Forth Valley's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) within the 18-week target set by the Scottish Government.

One Clacks parent opened up to the Advertiser, speaking about the impact on not just the young ones, but their families.

The health board said it has been hit by "staffing challenges", but is expecting steady improvements following a number of new appointments.

Officials have reassured families that urgent cases are prioritised and are "seen very quickly".

However, the Wee County mother, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that months of waiting between appointments for her child mean the family has to deal with issues with little to no support.

Her teenage daughter has been self-harming for around five years and the family only managed to obtain a CAMHS referral after a year of constant battling with her school and GP.

She had to take matters to the council's education department and explained: "It got to the kind of stage where you are constantly phoning doctors, every second day, saying: 'look, she needs to be seen, her health is getting worse'.

"It wasn't until the school and doctor got together and put a referral back into CAMHS again that she eventually got seen."

All that time, the youngster's self-harming tendencies continued and the family's everyday life became more and more disrupted.

The teenager's older siblings "went through a bit of trauma" and could not focus on exams while, initially, parents were also anxious to shield the younger family members from the reality of it all.

"That disrupted their education, they were never offered any support through the school or anything like that either to help deal with what was going on in the house", the Clacks parent added.

Nor did they receive support as a whole-family and had to adopt their own mechanisms to guide their daughter through such a stressful period.

The parents had to go as far as locking away cutlery, sharp and bladed objects, completely transforming the household.

Even today, months and months could pass between appointments with a psychiatrist.

The mother, who believes visits should be more frequent, said: "Even waiting for appointments with CAMHS [today] is a nightmare.

"She was seen in the summer there and her next appointment, and we've told them her health's [deteriorating], is not until the end of the year.

"And what's initially supposed to be an hour-long appointment, I think the longest we've ever been, at most, is 20 minutes."

According to figures from the Information Services Division (ISD), waiting time targets for NHS Forth Valley have been slipping over the past year.

And between January and March 2018, just 48 per cent of the 306 patients seen on time – the worst performance on record.

A spokeswoman for NHS Forth Valley said: "We have experienced a number of staffing challenges over the last year and there has also been an increase in the number of children and young people referred to local mental health services during this period.

"A number of additional specialist staff have recently been appointed and further posts are in the process of being filled.

"This will help increase capacity and reduce waiting times so we expect our performance to steadily improve over the next few months.

"Any urgent referrals continue to be prioritised and are seen very quickly."

News of the health board's performing sparked debate at Holyrood with Conservative MSP Alexander Stewart accusing the SNP of being "far too focused" on a second independence referendum.

He said: "The SNP government has to admit that it has comprehensively let down patients and its ministers must get back to the day job of supporting overworked doctors and nurses to reduce waiting times – and it isn't even coming close to its own standards.

"This is an SNP disaster at Forth Valley and it's the children, who are referred and who most urgently need looking after as far as mental health is concerned, that are being comprehensively let down at every turn.

"This shocking situation must be addressed with urgency."

In respsonse, the SNP's MSP Keith Brown told the Advertiser: "Demand for services is increasing as people become more aware of mental health issues and seek support, and this is a welcome step.

"But too many children and young people are experiencing waits that are too long, and this is completely unacceptable.

"In recognition of this, the SNP are supporting health boards with £250million of extra funding over five years, including £54million to help improve their performance against waiting times targets in mental health."