NHS Tayside (Mental Health Services)

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

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

The most serious matters bring us to the chamber today. In Scotland, we have made new commitments to see that people are treated with dignity and respect when they need help from the social security system, and those principles apply to healthcare, too.

I know that every day our healthcare system relies on the skill, professionalism and compassion of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and all other healthcare professionals. However, there are times when people—vulnerable people—reach out for help and do not get it. That should never happen. We talk easily—at times, too easily—about parity of esteem between mental health and physical health. However, we know that that is far from the reality. I, too, give my sincere condolences to the family of David Ramsay. We in this Parliament must work together to ensure that every lesson is learned and that we begin to treat mental health with the urgency that it requires.

It is right that NHS Tayside has commissioned an independent inquiry into mental health and suicide prevention services. However, I join others in stressing that any inquiry must be truly independent, involve families from the very start to the very finish and be prepared to go wherever necessary.

It would not be right for me or for any of us to prejudge what the remit of the inquiry should be. The families must help to guide those decisions. However, in considering the Government’s amendment, I reviewed the recommendations from Health Improvement Scotland and the Mental Welfare Commission, and I was struck by the high turnover of locum psychiatrists in NHS Tayside. That cannot be good for continuity of treatment, for sharing information about support and treatment, for building relationships with patients and for building good relationships between staff. I note, too, that there were also long waiting lists to see a clinical psychologist. I would be grateful if the cabinet secretary could, in her closing speech, discuss what steps the Government has taken to support the recruitment and retention of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in Tayside.

We are all concerned about the fact that, outwith acute services, people are waiting far too long to access psychological therapies in Tayside. Only 54.7 per cent of people started treatment within 18 weeks of referral, and only 41.5 per cent of children and young people were seen by child and adolescent mental health services within 18 weeks of referral. Those figures are shameful. It is clear to me that, as well as investigating specific failings at Carseview, we must ensure that community services are well supported and that people have access to psychological therapies when and where they need them.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s review also indicated that the crisis resolution and home treatment team has not always been able to work well with community mental health teams in different localities. That is concerning. If there are systemic or organisational issues at work, they must be addressed now.

The actions on suicide prevention that are addressed in the Government’s amendment include creating a suicide prevention leadership group and establishing multiagency reviews into all deaths by suicide. Those steps are necessary and are welcomed by the Samaritans in Scotland, which I thank for its expert briefing.

Like colleagues, I agree that any inquiry must be as wide in scope as necessary and must absolutely begin and end with family involvement.