By Bill Heaney

Scottish Labour has today revealed that a key commitment to recruit an additional 1,000 mental health roles made in the Scottish Government’s 2021/22 Programme for Government has yet to begin.

The 2021/22 Programme for Government stated that “By 2026, every GP Practice will have access to a mental health and well-being service, funding 1,000 additional dedicated staff who can help grow community mental health resilience and direct social prescribing.”

Labour MSPs Paul Sweeney and Jackie Baillie and Mental Health Minister Maree Todd (centre).

and In response to a Parliamentary Question submitted by Paul Sweeney MSP, Scotland’s Minister for Mental Health, Maree Todd, admitted that the recruitment of these roles has yet to begin, citing “difficult decisions that had to be taken through the Emergency Budget Review”. This is despite the commitment being made 20 months ago, 15 months prior to the Emergency Budget Review taking place.

The decision to pause the recruitment of these roles comes as Scotland is gripped by a mental health crisis. Previous FOI data shows that calls to NHS24 relating to mental health services rose by almost 600% between 2019 and 2022, while Public Health Scotland CAMHS figures show that the proportion of children and young people seen within 18 weeks is just 70%, well below the 90% target.

NHS workforce data also shows that 190 CAMHS roles remain vacant, further emphasising the need for the additional 1,000 roles promised to be recruited as a matter of priority.

Paul Sweeney MSP said: “This shocking revelation proves just how far down the Scottish Government’s list of priorities mental health comes.

“These Programme for Government commitments and the subsequent Emergency Budget Review both took place during Humza Yousaf’s tenure as Health Secretary, so he cannot run away from this failure. The policy was sanctioned on his watch, and he must explain why he felt it was appropriate to include the recruitment of 1,000 mental health specialists in the list of policies paused during the Emergency Budget Review.

“Scotland is in the grip of a mental health crisis: CAMHS are at breaking point, NHS24 is experiencing record calls relating to mental health, and GP practices are buckling under the pressure of unprecedented demand. The Scottish Government infamously admitted to taking their eye off the ball on Scotland’s drug death crisis, and sadly this latest failure shows that they are intent on repeating that negligent approach when it comes to Scotland’s mental health crisis.

“It is time for Humza Yousaf to stand up and be counted. He has now got the top job that he long coveted, and it’s long overdue that he finally uses his position to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.”

PQ Response: 

CAMHS Waiting Times:

Workforce Data:

Calls made to NHS 24 relating to mental health:

Year Calls Offered Calls Answered Calls Abandoned % of Calls Abandoned
2019 20,434 19,789 645  


2020 79,550 62,751 16,569  


2021 138,297 84,512 49,703  


2022 139,008 93,727 40,836  


Top picture: Gartnavel Royal Hospital at Anniesland in Glasgow.

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