Scottish Liberal Democrats have today accused the Scottish Government of inflating mental health recruitment figures after new figures revealed that a commitment to recruit 800 extra mental health workers in four key settings was missed.
Action 15 of the Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027 says that the government will "Increase the workforce to increase access to dedicated mental health professionals in all A&Es, all GP practices, every police station custody suite, and to our prisons. Over the next five years increasing additional investment to £35 million for 800 additional mental health workers in those key settings."
In response to a written parliamentary question released today, mental health minister Kevin Stewart claimed that “A total of 958.9 whole time equivalent mental health staff have been recruited in key settings over 4 years, significantly exceeding the original commitment for 800 additional workers”.
However, the number of staff recruited for the four key settings identified in the mental health strategy actually totals just 625.3, with the remainder of the Government’s extra staff based in other settings such as community workers.
Commenting on the figures, deputy leader Wendy Chamberlain MP said:
“It’s pretty low for the Scottish Government to roll in staff recruited for other settings and claim that this means they have met their target.
“Community workers and psychology practitioners have an important role to play but this is not what this target was for.
“Let’s be real about the human cost of this failure. People in crisis are continuing to suffer. Yet their government’s first response is to spin the numbers and inflate the figures.
“I think the mental health minister should take a hard look at themselves.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats warned the Scottish Government that even 800 staff wouldn't be enough to meet the huge demand that exists in GP surgeries, A&E, in prisons and with the police. We asked for much more. The SNP's failure to now even stick to this unambitious but explicit commitment will only add to the pressure these critical services are under."