NHS Tayside (Mental Health Services)

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

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Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

I thank the cabinet secretary for her intervention. Everybody inside and outside the chamber knows that, at times, there is no love lost between me and the cabinet secretary, but I hope that we are genuinely as one on this issue. If that is the case, I thank her, and I thank her for listening to the voices of the families. I hope that, in her speech, she will set out in more detail how the five principles will be delivered in practice, so that the families will have the comfort of a genuinely independent inquiry and of being part of the process.

We must learn the lessons of previous inquiries and ensure that those who have been affected are involved in the process. It would be an absolute tragedy if any inquiry did not have the full support and confidence of the family in its process and its final report. Confidence is crucial—we cannot allow this to become a repeat of the mesh inquiry.

The inquiry has national significance. As today’s report by Professor Rory O’Connor found, one in nine young people in Scotland has tried to commit suicide and, at some point in their life, one in six young people in Scotland will self-harm. The lessons from this inquiry, if it is done right, could help to better inform and design services not just in NHS Tayside but throughout Scotland. One in three people will have a mental health issue at some point in their life. The number of children with recorded mental health problems in our schools has more than doubled between 2012 and 2016. That is why we must ring fence mental health budgets to ensure that resources reach the front line, where they are needed most. We need to guarantee access to a school-based counsellor for every pupil in Scotland.

An area that needs specific investigation in NHS Tayside and right around Scotland is emergency mental health services. The reality for too many patients is that they cannot wait for days to see a general practitioner and then wait weeks or even months to see a counsellor or psychologist. We need to build emergency services that are supported by better use of technology so that people can speak to a counsellor quickly. That can be the difference between life and death for many individuals.

I have spoken about the wider challenges with mental health and of the importance of having the confidence of the affected families, having an open and transparent process, taking the families on a journey and giving them the answers that they want and need and the closure that they deserve, as well as delivering for the many families in Tayside that are concerned about the situation. It is also important to highlight that this is not just an issue in Tayside. I have been struck by the number of families that have said that this is about what happens across Scotland. We must make sure that we speak for them.

I will conclude by reading an email that I received from the niece of David Ramsay a couple of weeks ago. It tells the story of the families in their own words, explaining what they have gone through, what they demand and why they will not give up until they get what they want. It does that better than I or any other member in this Parliament could ever do. The email opened my eyes, and I struggled to read it because of the raw emotion that it contains.

David Ramsay’s niece, Gillian Murray, wrote:

“There is no doubt in our minds that David has been failed. My family is now another sad statistic in Dundee. There are so many of us in the same situation that it is terrifying. David was not just my uncle, he was my best friend, so watching him literally lose his mind in front of me with no support from the national health service fuels the anger that I feel that he was let down. Carseview Centre passed on any responsibility to myself and family. We tried our best but it wasn’t good enough. I was having to Google how to care for a suicidal individual since Carseview and NHS Tayside took no ownership. It is no wonder I now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. It is a living hell knowing that I asked the NHS for help and David asked the NHS for help, as well as other members of my family, and we were repeatedly ignored, resulting in David’s death. The advice David got was that they had ‘nipped it in the bud, go out and do normal things like walk the dog’. The guilt plagues us every day. I ran around Templeton Woods for over two hours. By the time I got to David, it was too late. David took the advice; he did go and walk the dog. He hung himself with the dog lead. No other family should have to go through this sheer agony knowing that their loved one’s death was preventable. David’s life has been taken from him and my life has been destroyed in the process, as have the rest of my family’s lives, and those of other families in Dundee. This crisis cannot continue and will not continue. I will not stop. We cannot grieve and we cannot move on with our lives without some form of justice. You wouldn’t expect a murder victim’s family to simply ‘move on’, so why should our families, whose loved ones have lost their lives, be any different?”

The answer to Gillian’s question is that they should not. I hope that this Parliament stands united with her and all the families in their pursuit of justice. [



I move,

That the Parliament notes the catalogue of concerns regarding mental health services in NHS Tayside raised by campaigners and families of people who have died by suicide in the region; understands that Dundee has had a 61% increase in its suicide rate in a year, and agrees with the families’ call that the Scottish Government must instigate a public inquiry into mental health services in the region.