At some point in our lives, all of us will have relied upon NHS services to keep us healthy. Whether we are talking about bumps, scrapes, broken bones or serious illnesses like cancer, doctors and nurses in our health services work tirelessly to help their patients recover.
One thing that has become clear over recent years is that NHS staff are constantly being asked to do more with less. And one of the areas where this is most obvious is in mental health services.
While there has been some progress in the way we talk about mental ill health, we are still not seeing the improvements that we need in services. There are a few reasons for this, not least that the proportion of the NHS budget the SNP administration has been spending for treating mental ill health has been on a steady downward path over the last few years while demand for services has increased.
The consequences of this are clear for everyone to see. Some children have been forced to wait more than a year or travel hundreds of miles, sometimes outside Scotland, to receive specialist mental health care. Last year, SNP Ministers launched an action plan to boost these services in NHS Grampian, which was struggling with waiting times. But since then performance got worse, not better.
This is not something that we would tolerate if a child broke an arm. Why should mental health be different?
Mental ill health is a big problem. A recent freedom of information request found that councils have lost nearly two million working days to mental ill health over the last five years. One of the local authorities we were in touch with told us that stress-related absence accounts for around one in five of days lost and remains the single largest cause of absence. Before you consider the health impact on those members of staff who have a mental condition, the financial cost of this to councils runs into the millions of pounds.
The message to Scottish Government Ministers is clear: it is time that they got serious about mental health.
Liberal Democrats want mental health support in Scotland needs to be transformed. That starts with proper investment. Nurses, counsellors and psychologists working in our NHS are working as hard as they can but they are overstretched. The same problems exist for additional staff employed by councils that look after the mental wellbeing of adults and young children, such as mental health officers and educational psychologists.
The Scottish Government is not providing health boards or councils with the necessary financial resources they need to provide effective treatment as quickly and as close to patients’ homes as possible.
We will go into this election with a bold plan to put mental health care front and centre in an NHS that is fit for the future.
If you agree that we need to get serious about mental health, please add your name here: