I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests, in that I am a registered mental health nurse and currently hold an honorary contract with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
There can be no denying that the death of David Ramsay and others in NHS Tayside is a tragedy. I will repeat the phrase that has been used today already—that does not diminish its veracity—by saying that one suicide is one too many. I extend my heartfelt sympathies to Mr Ramsay’s family and friends. I pay tribute to the tenacity of the lost souls of Dundee campaigners in ensuring that their campaign is rightly being debated in the Scottish Parliament today.
As a mental health nurse for more than 30 years, I know all too well the effect that someone’s suicide can have on their loved ones. Therefore, I sincerely hope that the families present here today are able to find some comfort in the months ahead.
I have raised the issue of suicide and, in particular, male suicide on a number of occasions in the Parliament. In the same year as Mr Ramsay’s passing, another 727 suicides were registered in Scotland, 71 per cent of which were of men. Although the suicide rate in Scotland has fallen by 17 per cent over the past decade, and the five-year rolling average shows a downward trend, that is little comfort to those whose family member or friend has already passed away. However, we owe it to them and to the others to continue working to ensure that the number of people taking their life continues to fall.
Suicide is not unique to Tayside. Sadly, 44 people took their life in South Lanarkshire in 2016, a number of whom will have been from my constituency. However, if NHS Tayside has been letting down its patients, it is correct that it is closely looked into. I therefore welcome the announcement that an independent inquiry into mental health and suicide prevention services across the region has been launched. That is testament to the decisiveness of the new leadership, which was installed by the cabinet secretary, and I am sure that the health board will move in the correct direction under the leadership of John Brown and Malcolm Wright.
Within that investigation, the delivery of services at centres such as Carseview will be closely examined. If the report highlights areas for improvement or raises issues on which lessons can be learned, NHS Tayside must make the necessary changes immediately.
I sincerely hope that the families who are concerned about mental health and suicide prevention services in NHS Tayside will not be let down by this process. However, if they are, they can be reassured that the Scottish Government will convert it into an inquiry under the auspices of the Inquiries Act 2005.
The families will be anxiously awaiting the conclusions of NHS Tayside’s investigation, and I hope that time is given to ensure that all relevant details are thoroughly scrutinised. I was heartened by the cabinet secretary’s comments today on “Good Morning Scotland” that the families are to be at the heart of the inquiry and will be involved with its terms of reference, and that they should have confidence in its chair.
Although the investigation is under way, it is worth while pointing out that the Scottish Government and health agencies have already been looking into concerns regarding mental health services in NHS Tayside. The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland carried out an unannounced inspection of Carseview in November and made a number of recommendations regarding care planning and the availability of responsible medical officers; Health Improvement Scotland carried out a similar examination in December 2017.
More widely, the Scottish Government has published a 10-year mental health strategy, and the new suicide prevention action plan will be published soon. As a mental health nurse, I am incredibly proud that Governments, politicians, health services and the public are beginning to see mental health as being equal to physical health. However, we are not there yet, and we must all continue to work together until tragic deaths such as Mr Ramsay’s are a thing of the past.