Mental Health Services

– in the Scottish Parliament on 5th October 2017.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

3. The First Minister will have seen the shocking report of the way in which Gordon Edwards from West Lothian has been let down. Despite three referrals from his general practitioner, Mr Edwards, who is only 17 years old, has been denied access to mental health services. Instead, he was sent to an employment service to get a job. How ill does he need to get before he gets the treatment that he needs?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

We expect our mental health services to provide appropriate treatment to the individuals who present to them, including the individual whose case Willie Rennie has raised today. As Willie Rennie knows, we accept the challenge that Scotland has—in common with other countries—to meet the rising demand for mental health services. We are investing additional resources in mental health services and are seeing more people employed in them, and we will continue to take action to ensure that that carries on. This year is the first time that national health service investment in mental health will exceed £1 billion; in a whole range of ways, we are taking action with health boards to improve services.

I take the view—and I took this view when I was health secretary—that as long as one person in mental health services or any other health service feels as if they have been let down by the system, the Government, working with health boards and, increasingly, in the delivery of health care, local councils, has a responsibility to continue to make improvements. That is what we will continue to do in response to the kind of case that Willie Rennie has highlighted.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

The trouble is that

Mr Edwards is not alone. In Lothian, two in five young people who need support are not getting it on time. In Grampian, 65 per cent are being failed. Those figures mask people who are being bumped off lists to meet waiting-time targets. The Kindred Advocacy group says that young people have to “be extremely ill” before they are treated. Falkland House school says that young people need early treatment, instead of being sent somewhere else first.

The First Minister agreed to commission an audit of rejected referrals for mental health, but that was more than six months ago. What was the outcome of that review? How much longer will young people like Mr Edwards have to wait?

The First Minister:

As Willie Rennie said, we did confirm a review of rejected referrals and that the review would get under way this year. Of course, there has to be preparation to carry out that work, but we will take it forward in the way that we have committed to, and then we will share its findings with Parliament.

As I have said, not just today but on many previous occasions in the chamber, we are seeing growing demand for mental health services. We should welcome that because what lies behind it is a reducing stigma around mental health.

Willie Rennie and other members are absolutely right to bring to the chamber any case of services not meeting the level of quality that patients have a right to expect. Equally, I will continue to talk, rightly, about the investment that we are committing to make sure that the improvements, which everybody wants to see, happen. I said earlier that investment this year will exceed £1 billion for the first time. If we look at the trend of spend over the past decade, we see that in 2007, £651 million was spent on mental health; the figure now exceeds £1 billion. We are investing more than £50 million specifically to support reductions in waiting times; £10 million to support new ways of improving mental health in primary care; and £15 million to support better access to child and adolescent mental health services and innovation around the delivery of those services.

Across a whole range of issues, we are taking the action that people expect us to take to ensure that we see the improvement to services that people deserve and have the right to expect.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

Can I be clear on what the First Minister has just said? She seems to be unaware whether the audit has been concluded. Has the audit actually started?

The First Minister:

The work on the audit is under way and, when we have concluded it, we will ensure that its findings are shared with the Parliament. We made a range of commitments in our mental health strategy and work is under way to deliver all of them, and we will continue to ensure that action is taken so that we meet those commitments and improve services in the way that people expect.