Since 2016, the Scottish Government has invested £1.8 million in NHS Ayrshire and Arran for capacity building and workforce development to improve mental health waiting times, with over £770,000 to come. That funding is currently paying for 8.8 whole-time-equivalent staff, with another in recruitment. Alongside that, the board is receiving support from the mental health access improvement team to deliver front-line improvement projects to improve access to treatment.
The Scottish Government is also investing an additional £4 million in child and adolescent mental health services staff across Scotland, who will be instrumental in supporting new services and reducing pressure on the system.
The minister will be aware of the difficulties in accessing CAMHS, particularly in south Ayrshire, and the long waiting time for an appointment with a consultant psychiatrist. She will know that suicide numbers are rising—particularly among young men, but regrettably across all age groups—with loneliness and isolation on the increase. What additional measures can the Scottish Government take to address those growing problems?
Mr Scott might be interested to know that the latest figures show that, in NHS Ayrshire and Arran, 95 per cent of CAMHS and 82 per cent of psychological therapies patients were seen within 18 weeks, with an average wait of seven and five weeks, respectively.
However, the Scottish Government recognises that some people are still waiting too long and we are determined to meet the waiting times standards across Scotland. That is why we set up a new mental health delivery board, which I chair and which had its second meeting this week. The board will oversee improvement activity and will track performance. Boards have been asked to put in place improvement plans by April, setting out clear milestones over the next two years.
The minister will be aware that Labour-led North Ayrshire Council is the first local authority in Scotland to have a dedicated mental health counsellor in each of its secondary schools. However, the leader of the council, Councillor Joe Cullinane, has told me that demand for the service is so high that some schools already have waiting lists, and he has raised the issue of support outwith the school day. What action will the minister take to ensure that every secondary school in Scotland, like those in North Ayrshire, has a dedicated mental health counsellor? What resources are available to ensure that the service is sufficiently resourced and that support does not end at the end of the school day?
Monica Lennon will be aware that we have committed to having school counsellors in every high school in Scotland. As I said in my previous answer, we have also invested £4 million in CAMHS to deliver 80 additional staff, which will ease pressure on the system across the country. We have also committed to having 250 additional school nurses and to rolling out mental health first aid training for teachers across all local authorities. I believe that those measures will help to address some of the issues that Ms Lennon has raised, not just in Ayrshire but across Scotland.