ALMOST 600 children have been waiting more than a year for specialist mental health care, according to new figures.

NHS data from the end of December 2019 reveals 589 youngsters had been on the waiting list for 52 weeks or more to get an appointment with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

Meanwhile, 272 children who were seen for the first time in the last three months of 2019 had waited more than a year for their appointment.

By the end of December 2019, there were 10,820 young people waiting for CAMHS help - up from 9,337 the previous year.

The number waiting has gone from a low of 7,620 in the last three months of 2017 to a high of 10,820 at the end of the most recent quarter.

Meanwhile, the number who received help fell.

Over October to December 2019, 3,884 young people started treatment with CAMHS, a drop of 14.1 per cent from 2018.

The Scottish Government has set the target for 90 per cent of patients being seen within 18 weeks - but in 2019 there were 5,027 children and young people who waited longer than this to start receiving help.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “At the same time as these unbearable waits were being recorded, SNP ministers at Parliament were voting to deny that there is a mental health crisis in Scotland.”

Labour MSP Mary Fee said: “These new figures show what we have known now for some time – the SNP is failing Scotland’s young people.

“At a time when youth suicides have been increasing these figures should shame SNP ministers into action.”

Children’s campaigners at Barnardo’s Scotland stressed the CAMHS statistics are “a small part of the bigger picture of children and young people’s mental health and well-being”.

Mental health minister Clare Haughey said “To shorten waits for treatment, we are making significant changes to meet increasing demand.”