By Lucy Ashton
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, pictured right, has today set out his proposals for tackling the mental health crisis in every corner of Scotland as part of his New Hope for Health strategy.
The proposals include:
- More funding for mental health and fresh resources to deliver local and accessible mental health support in all parts of Scotland.
- Support to enable firms to train a mental health first aider for every workplace.
- Reducing barriers to counsellor training to create a larger and more diverse workforce.
- A new higher target for recruiting mental health professionals in A&E departments, GP services, police stations and prisons.
- Mental health practitioners in every GP practice with additional recruitment for practices in deprived areas.
His calls come as poll for the Royal College of Psychiatrists conducted by YouGov last month suggested that almost eight in 10 people think demand for mental health services will increase after the pandemic is over. It also revealed that during the pandemic:
- 32% of respondents have suffered anxiety.
- 24% of respondents said they have suffered symptoms of depression.
- 23% of respondents have experienced loneliness.
On Tuesday, new research into Primary Care services revealed that just 47 per cent of GP practices have full access to a mental health worker.
Forty per cent of GP appointments are connected to mental health issues
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “For people facing long periods of isolation, key workers on the frontline facing burnout and so many families facing bereavement, it has been a long and dark 22 months, but provision for mental ill health was in crisis before anyone had ever heard of Covid-19.
“Adults and children alike are being told to join the longest queue in the national health service.
“One of the first things I did after getting elected was to meet with the Health Secretary Shona Robson and mental health minister Maureen Watt to discuss how to get an army of new staff into A&E departments, GP services, police stations and prisons. More than five years on I am not convinced that any serious progress has been made. It’s baffling to see a government so pathologically averse to tackling this problem.
“From £120 million in extra funding in the budget to the parliamentary vote to declare a mental health emergency, Scottish Liberal Democrats have had to wring these commitments out of the Scottish Government in the most gruelling fashion.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that wherever you are, asking and receiving help should be normal and easy and if left untreated small problems can become big crises.
“There is huge pressure on existing staff across the NHS so staff deserve answers for why SNP and Green MSPs last week voted down my party’s proposal for an urgent Burnout Prevention Strategy for NHS staff. Services and key workers need that added protection but got none.
“I want to offer new hope for patients and staff alike. That means a truly comprehensive NHS recovery plan with clear targets for when treatment targets will be met and access to care in every community.
“I would be only too happy if the Scottish Government were to take these proposals and run with them and I would gladly work with them to make this a reality. People struggling with poor mental health need new hope.”
Picture: Over-burdened: Mental health hospital at Gartnavel.