Mental Health Problems

Scottish Executive Question Time — Health and Wellbeing – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 2nd December 2010.

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Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative 2:15 pm, 2nd December 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive what progress has been made since 2007 in the early diagnosis and treatment of people with mental health problems. (S3O-12154)

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government recognises that prevention of mental ill health and timely diagnosis followed by appropriate intervention are key to improving treatment and outcomes for patients.

Although we believe that there has been no change in the number of people who are ill, the number of people registered with their general practitioner with a diagnosis of depression has increased from 6.2 per cent in 2006-07 to 8.6 per cent in 2009-10. The number of people registered with a diagnosis of dementia increased from 29,761 in 2006-07 to 35,816 in 2009-10, and we expect to meet the health improvement, efficiency, access and treatment—HEAT—target in advance of March 2011.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

Given that 54 per cent of new courses of antidepressant treatment last for more than 90 days, and that 36 per cent of the new patients are on antidepressants for more than 180 days, is it not time to ensure that patients with mild and moderate depression are given access to appropriate talking therapies as soon as possible, to reduce the likelihood of their condition becoming severe, chronic and enduring?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I acknowledge the member's long-standing interest in these matters—she has raised the issue in the chamber on a number of occasions.

The Public Audit Committee was right to recommend that we review the antidepressant target, given that the research showed that, in 98 per cent of cases, people on a prescription are receiving medication appropriately. We are committed to ensuring that their needs are met in an appropriate way, as per the clinical diagnosis.

However, the member is right to talk about the need to look at the issue from the other end of the telescope, as it were, and to ensure that people can get access to psychological therapies. That is why we committed ourselves to developing a target for access to psychological therapies for inclusion in the HEAT targets in 2011-12. This is the first time that such a target has been established, and I think that it will be important in ensuring that people, particularly those with more mild depression, anxiety and low mood, get access to those talking therapies and a range of other therapies that can help to reduce the likelihood that a more serious mental health problem will develop.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I thank the minister for the further information that she has given. Of course, the antidepressant prescribing target, which we hoped would lead to prescribing stabilising and then falling, has been summarily dropped by the Government without being immediately replaced by the alternative, although I acknowledge that the minister has just confirmed that the alternative is being considered.

In England, 3,000 new therapists have been trained. How many new therapists have been trained in Scotland? In light of the earlier discussion about nurse graduates, would it be sensible to train further therapists who can apply these therapies, and then replace or backfill them with new graduates?

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I am sure that Richard Simpson will be aware of the amount of new work that is going on with the boards and NHS Education for Scotland. I hope that he will recognise that, despite the rather unfortunate comments that his party made about disbanding NES, it is doing a really important job in ensuring that the education is in place that will enable us to reach the target to improve access to psychological therapies, as well as other important work.

NES is funding psychological therapies training co-ordinator posts in boards to provide the educational infrastructure that is necessary to ensure that the training and supervision are well organised and sustainable, and that the therapies have maximum service impact.

NES is also funding a psychological interventions team to co-ordinate work, particularly in relation to improving patient pathways and referral criteria to help to improve access to services. My concern is that Richard Simpson, in making his proposal, criticises NES and undermines the good and important work that it does. Perhaps he will reflect on his party's comments in light of that work.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Question 8 has been withdrawn.