An increase in awareness of mental health problems and the importance of mental wellbeing is positive for the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities in Scotland, now and in the future. However, it has meant that demand for support services such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Psychological Therapies Services (PT) have increased.

CAMHS and PT are specialist services within the NHS which help people with severe and enduring mental health issues, providing specialist treatment plans to support them. In collaboration with Directors and Heads of Service from NHS Health Boards in Scotland, Public Health Scotland (PHS) developed a CAMHS and PT Trajectory Tool and a supporting Demand, Capacity, Activity and Queue (DCAQ) template to help services better understand their current position and estimate future needs. This means that services can provide consistent evidence when requesting funding for additional support, such as staffing, accommodation and IT equipment, to meet the estimated demand for treatment.

Following national approval, most NHS Boards are using the trajectory tool and as part of the remobilisation of services following the COVID pandemic and received substantial investments to move towards achieving the Scottish Government Standard of starting treatment within 18 weeks of referral. At PHS we have received positive user testimonials about their experience of using the tool, and the support they have received from PHS analysts.

This helped me to understand Orkney and plan for the future. It is clear on the projection of service needs and staffing requirements. We found [PHS] support incredibly helpful… in the interpretation of what it actually meant for the service.

This is a powerful tool to gauge progress on waiting times management.

Consultant Psychologist, NHS Orkney
I have used the tool extensively, both for reporting internally and to SG, and for planning purposes. It has been extremely helpful for both purposes, in fact I'm not sure how I would have done these core tasks without it! It would definitely have been a lot more labour intensive and almost certainly produced less accurate results if I did not have this to use.

[the PHS analyst] has been a tremendous support to me and the Psychology team involved in work on the target. He has gained a clear understanding of the nuances of clinical practice that need to be taken into account in this work and this has ensured that the tool developed has validity.

Overall [I] just want to say the tool is excellent

Head of Adult Mental Health Psychology, NHS Fife
Overall the experience was very good, the tool had enough options to be useful and you could internally validate it with older data and matching the outcome to the present data.

Principal Information Analyst, Scottish Government
This is a well overdue tool that allows services to make plans around capacity that are realistic and grounded in a clear methodology. It makes intuitive sense and we've found it extremely helpful.

If there was an internet portal that would be really helpful. It means that we would always be using the latest version and always be able to access.

Head of Psychological Specialty, NHS Ayrshire & Arran

Analysts from PHS continue to work closely with CAMHS and PT clinicians and service managers in using the Trajectory Tool to help predict demand and capacity, and more broadly to support their intelligence needs to help deliver quality mental health services. Based on user feedback, the Trajectory Tool has already been adapted and improved, and we will continue to seek feedback.

Contact the PHS public mental health team at or

View the CAMHS national service specification [external website].

See the performance data on the standard for 90 per cent of patients to commence Psychological Therapy based treatment within 18 weeks of referral [external website]

Last updated: 11 October 2022