NHS Tayside (Mental Health Services)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 9th May 2018.

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Photo of Jenny Marra Jenny Marra Labour

Mental ill health is a human crisis in the city of Dundee. For years now, I have listened to families who are concerned about the support and treatment that their loved ones receive. I find it difficult to find the right words when parents come to me, having lost their children, asking why their son was turned away from Carseview, why he was not admitted and why they could not make contact with any services that weekend. Words seem futile as grief overwhelms the room.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have a particular problem with the services in Carseview. That was confirmed in no uncertain terms when I visited the Carseview centre in September 2016, after calling publicly for a full review of the Carseview unit. The presentation that I received was possibly one of the most offensive accounts of public service that I have ever heard. After having meetings with the then chairman of NHS Tayside to raise public concerns about mental health services, on 9 April this year, at a meeting with the new chair and chief executive on their first day of work, I asked them please to prioritise two issues for our community: mental health services and deaths from drugs.

Like the cabinet secretary and Labour’s health spokesperson, Anas Sarwar, I am therefore relieved that the new management has undertaken to review Carseview and mental health services at last. I am also heartened that the Government amendment agrees with Labour’s call and says that a public inquiry is appropriate if we do not get the answers that we need. We will hold the Government to that if necessary. I have raised these issues time and time again with NHS Tayside, and if I feel powerless, I can only imagine how powerless the families feel and how the lack of answers or redress compounds their loss and grief.

I am grateful to Richard Leonard for elevating Labour’s call to a level at which it has been heard and answered. However, the services concerned are—and should be—wider than those at Carseview. NHS Tayside’s recent mental health review resulted in the closure of the Mulberry unit in Angus and, consequently, further pressure on Carseview. The reason that MSPs were given at the time was that there were insufficient numbers of psychiatrists to staff the unit safely. No politician can turn their face from that advice, but I believe that we have got to this place because of poor workforce planning by the cabinet secretary’s team. We have a growing crisis but declining capacity and services that are ever further from communities and people.

Increasing problems with mental health are not unique to Scotland. Other post-industrial countries report the same, which is why, as well as conducting a full review of the services that are available to support people, the Government has a moral duty to look closely at prevention.

Following a meeting with the lost souls parents group in Dundee a couple of years back, I met the head of mental health at NHS Tayside and her team at the Murray royal hospital. After discussing the services that the families had received, I asked how we could prevent escalating problems and crisis. Resilience in children was the answer, and we have a duty to start looking at that seriously. Early intervention in mental health is so poor in Dundee; only 40 per cent of children on the CAMHS waiting list in NHS Tayside are being seen within 18 weeks. SAMH has recently commissioned a survey to find out how many children are being turned away from CAMHS after being referred by their GP. I have raised on a number of occasions in the chamber the declining numbers of educational psychologists, and Government changes to the path and cost of training are depleting that essential workforce further.

I welcome the review and the commitment by the Government to look again if we do not get the answers that we need. However, this is not job done. There is a huge and escalating problem with mental health from childhood and we need to think about ways to tackle it as early as possible.