One in four senior mental health roles missing a permanenent appointee

By Lucy Ashton

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has warned that Scotland’s mental health emergency will never be resolved unless the Scottish Government gets serious about staffing.

Research by the party has revealed that almost 1 in 4 senior mental health roles is either vacant or filled by locums.

Freedom of information requests submitted by Scottish Liberal Democrats to all 14 Scottish health boards reveal that:

  • 103 consultant psychiatrist roles out of 674 full time equivalent (FTE) roles are currently vacant, while a further 82.5 FTE roles are filled by locums. This means that 27% of roles do not have a permanent appointee in place.
  • In NHS Highland 53% of consultant psychiatrist roles are either vacant or filled by locums.
  • NHS Shetland reported that it does not have any consultant psychiatrists and that the role is currently filled by bank staff.
  • NHS Orkney reported that it only has a 0.5 (WTE) consultant psychiatrist in place.
  • NHS Lothian and NHS Lanarkshire reported the highest vacancies at 19.5 apiece.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

“These figures show that a significant number of the most senior mental health roles in Scotland’s health service are either lying empty or being filled on a temporary basis.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have championed the cause of our national mental health for many years, but these figures show that there is still serious work to be done.

“There is a sharp crisis in mental health staffing across Scotland. Thousands of children and adults are waiting more than a year for treatment. Staff are under immense pressure and patients are suffering.

“The Scottish Government has compounded the crisis by stripping £38 million in funding for mental health this year.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats will invest new hope in mental health. Alongside increasing the number of consultant psychiatrists in training to plug these gaps, we will roll out more counsellors in schools, install a single point of contact for those on waiting lists, ramp up training so that every workplace can benefit from a mental health first aider and deliver more mental health professionals in GP surgeries and A&E departments.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information request asked: How many consultant psychiatrist posts (Whole Time Equivalent) within your health board are (a) in place, (b) filled by locums and (c) vacant. A spreadsheet containing the data obtained via a freedom of information request can be found here.

The £38m Scottish Government cut to mental health was reported here.

Pictures: The Royal Hospital last Gartnavel and Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Liberal Democrat leader.

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