Scottish Government urged to ‘pick up pace’ of mental health staff recruitment

The Scottish Government has been urged to “pick up the pace” if it is to meet its target of recruiting 800 mental health staff by 2022.

Plans to increase the number of mental health staff in hospitals, GP surgeries, prisons and police stations were set out in the Government’s Mental Health Strategy introduced in 2017.

But a quarterly performance report published on Friday shows 186 whole-time equivalent mental health workers were in a post as of April 1.

The figures include 40 mental health staff in A&E, three working in a custody suite, 66 in GP practices, and six in prisons.

A total of 77 workers were recorded as being in posts categorised under “other settings”.

All 31 Integration Authorities in Scotland had provided detailed data on their confirmed and planned staffing to the Scottish Government.

Scottish Liberal Democrat mental health spokeswoman Emma Walker said waits for mental health treatment will continue if the rate of recruitment stays as it is.

She said: “Nobody should be waiting two years for mental health treatment. However at the rate the Scottish Government is going, long waits are set to continue for the foreseeable future.

“Only a fraction of the 944 GP practices can now draw on more mental health support.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats want every single practice to have a new mental health practitioner, easing the strain on GPs and improving treatment times.

“Years after prison officers were promised more help in the form of new mental health workers, there are just six extra staff across Scotland’s 15 prisons.

“Meantime, both the population and self-harm rates have soared so prisons are actually in a much worse position.

“The Scottish Government needs to pick up the pace.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our NHS workforce is at a record high level, and Psychology Services staffing is up 67% since 2007.

“Through investment which is progressively increasing to £35 million, we are on track to deliver our commitment of 800 additional mental health staff in key settings by 2022, with 186 already recruited as of April 2019.

“Through our Mental Health Strategy, we will ensure people get the right help at the right time, free from stigma, and where mental ill health is treated with the same commitment as physical ailments.”

Mental health services must better address needs of young, report concludes

A change in thinking is needed for Scotland to better address mental health, according to a report produced by young people from across the country.

The findings of Scotland’s first Youth Commission on mental health were published on Friday following a 16-month project in which the views of 23 young people aged 15 to 25 with varying experiences of mental health services were heard.

Supported by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), the Scottish Government and Young Scot, the commission engaged with young people, service providers and other relevant sectors before publishing recommendations on how mental health services should be accessed and operated.

The commission made recommendations covering a number of areas, including education, community and public opinions, finance, policy and rights, and training.

In its recommendations, the commission said access to peer-to-peer support should be provided in every secondary school, with mental health education embedded within the curriculum.

It also said mental health first aid training should be a standard requirement for all organisations working with young people – bringing it in line with laws about physical first aid.

The commission highlighted that “funding is a key issue for services and organisations”, and said “a lack of money impacts on services not being able to operate to the best of their ability”.

In its conclusions, it said mental health must be taken seriously and insisted that its recommendations could help to provide “clear world-leading mental health services for young people”.

Commission member Neva Brown said: “I joined the Youth Commission because I’d seen too many people not get the help when they needed it, even when they had tried to access help.

“I also felt with my own personal experience I’d be able to help so many people and stop them from going through what I had to.

“I have gained so much from being a part of the Youth Commission, I started as a very anxious person that would struggle to go anywhere myself, to someone that travels across Scotland by themselves and has the confidence to speak openly about mental health issues.

“I hope the Youth Commission allows more young people to know their rights regarding their mental health and makes services more accessible to everyone, so no-one is left to suffer alone.”

Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey said the Government will study the commission’s report.

She added: “I’d like to thank the Youth Commission for their comprehensive report looking at how we can work together to improve mental health services for children and young people across Scotland.

“The report, and the amount of work that has gone into it, is a credit to Young Scot, SAMH and all the young people involved, who have shown bravery and tenacity in bringing their own personal experiences to this project.

“We will carefully consider how we can take the Youth Commission’s recommendations forward, and we will give you a full response in the coming months.”

Young Scot chief executive Louise Macdonald said: “This report was produced by young people who are passionate about how young people can lead the way in shaping our services and setting out a vision for mental health services which benefits all young people.

“These recommendations are a huge step in realising how young people can act as system changers, influencing areas of their lives that affect them most.”

Billy Watson, of SAMH, said: “The Youth Commission for Mental Health Services has provided young people with the opportunity to play a significant role in shaping the mental health agenda, creating lasting change for the delivery of mental health services for generations to come.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition added: “The report from Scotland’s first Youth Commission on Mental Health is to be greatly welcomed and highlights the fundamental changes that are required if we are to support young people with mental health problems.”

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