I echo Liz Smith’s comments about the tone of today’s debate. We have been frank; we have let people know that the Parliament takes mental health and suicide seriously. I, too, pay tribute to the families in the gallery and the staff who work tirelessly in difficult circumstances.
With mental health services in NHS Tayside having fallen seriously short of the standards that are expected, I welcome the minister’s comments that the investigation will cover the whole of NHS Tayside and all its facilities. As we can see from the extremely tragic case of David Ramsay, it is the families and the friends who ever after live with the consequences of services that fail their loved ones.
NHS Tayside has come under the media spotlight for good reason. Bill Bowman said, as an MSP for the area, that fewer than half of Tayside’s children waiting for mental health treatment are seen within 18 weeks, and NHS Tayside’s performance of 41.5 per cent being seen within the referral period is the second worst in Scotland. As Anas Sarwar and others have stated, suicides in Dundee have risen 61 per cent in a year.
I, too, pay tribute to the bravery and the work of the lost souls of Dundee group. It has identified at least 10 suicides that could have been prevented, had better help been available at Carseview.
Four minutes is a short time for which to speak about such an important topic, but I will round off the debate for the Scottish Conservatives by looking at how NHS Tayside sits within the broader context of mental health services struggling to meet growing demand.
We know that mental health services across Scotland, are being pushed to their limit, with more than a quarter of adults waiting too long for psychological therapy and more than a quarter of children waiting too long for mental health treatment. We have not seen the promised step change following publication last year of the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy. Mental health charities have stated publicly that the strategy lacks the ambition and the investment that are needed. As we see in NHS Tayside, the current model is not working.
When it comes to suicide, which is an incredibly sensitive topic, I am concerned that we are not seeing the ambition that is so desperately needed. In 2016, 728 people in Scotland died from suicide, which was a rise of 8 per cent from the previous year. Despite that, we have not had a suicide action plan in place since 2016. The draft plan that was published in March was met with open disappointment from Samaritans Scotland, which had engaged with the Scottish Government prior to its publication. Samaritans cited the draft plan’s scarce detail on targets, timeframes and the resources to be allocated. There was also no information on how groups who are disproportionately affected by suicide—men, people in middle age, people in deprivation and people who live alone—would be supported. The lack of detail is worrying. I hope that the final strategy, which will be published in the summer, will clearly outline how suicide will be tackled.
To finish, I echo my colleagues’ calls for a wide inquiry into mental health services in NHS Tayside. Mental health awareness week begins on Monday. It is time that strong words on the topic were backed up by urgent action. If we do not act now, mental health services will continue to lag behind physical health services when it comes to investment and resources, which will have potentially far-reaching consequences.
The problems in NHS Tayside have vividly highlighted that, when we are not disciplined in tackling mental health issues, we badly let down the families and friends of people with mental health problems. Members across the chamber would be failing in our duty if we did not do everything in our power to improve the situation for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.