Mental Health

– in the Scottish Parliament on 8th September 2021.

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Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

2. To ask the Scottish Government what importance it places on recognising and addressing the societal issues that contribute to poor mental health. (S6O-00100)

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Poverty is the single biggest driver of poor mental health, which is why we continue to urge the United Kingdom Government to reverse its decision to cut the uplift to universal credit.

We know that the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing structural inequality in our society and that the adverse impacts on mental health are felt disproportionately by disadvantaged groups. In our mental health transition and recovery plan, we have committed to making the mental health of those groups a priority.

We also know that other social determinants, including employment and debt, can impact on mental health and wellbeing. We are working with employers, trade unions and other organisations, including the Money and Pensions Service and Citizens Advice Scotland, to better understand and tackle those issues.

Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland recently carried out a survey that showed that 47 per cent of its Scottish general practitioner members and 58 per cent of its dentist members reported higher levels of stress because of the pandemic. What measures have been put in place to support the mental health of all national health service staff?

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Our health recovery plan, which we published on 25 August, outlines that the recovery of staff is intrinsic to our collective ambitions for renewing our NHS. The Government is providing £8 million this financial year to support the mental health and wellbeing of the health and social care workforce, which includes £2 million for targeted support for the primary care and social care workforces.

A range of national resources is available to support the mental health and wellbeing of those who work in health and social care. Those resources include the National Wellbeing Hub, which provides self-care and digital resources; the national wellbeing helpline, which provides a 24/7 service to those who require psychological support and can offer advice, signposting and onward referral to local services when required; coaching for wellbeing, which is a free-to-access digital coaching service; and the workforce specialist service. Additional capacity has also been put in place within boards to provide psychological therapies and interventions to support staff’s mental health.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

There are a number of supplementary questions and I want to take all of them, so I will need brief questions and answers.

Photo of Craig Hoy Craig Hoy Conservative

Yesterday, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care conceded that waiting times for child and adolescent mental health services are “unacceptable” and admitted that the targets were badly missed before the pandemic.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Make it a quick question, please, Mr Hoy.

Photo of Craig Hoy Craig Hoy Conservative

We found out this week that CAMHS referral rates are now the highest on record, with one in every 100 children being referred for specialist care. Will the minister now outline what he intends to do to honour the Government’s commitment to increase the CAMHS workforce by 320 new staff?

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Since the Government came to power, the CAMHS workforce has risen by some 80 per cent. We will continue to do our level best to reduce waiting times and to do what is required to improve services for those in need. It would be helpful, in all that matter, not to have the continued austerity agenda, so that we can employ more staff. I ask Mr Hoy and his Conservative colleagues to try to persuade the United Kingdom Government to reverse its austerity policies so that we can invest even more in our public services in Scotland.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

The reality is that societal issues such as poverty have a major impact on children and adolescents. The waiting times for CAMHS in Fife are at an unacceptable level and are rising. Will the minister agree to meet me for a discussion of those issues and see what the Scottish Government can do to support NHS Fife to get those waiting times down?

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

As always, I am more than happy to meet Mr Rowley to discuss that issue or any other constructively. I recognise that there are difficulties in Fife. As members will know, I have spoken to a number of health boards about the actions that they need to take to improve services. We have given £29 million of additional support to bring CAMHS waiting lists down.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

The minister listed many contributors to poor mental health, but I did not hear him mention the fact that we have enormously long lists or the contribution that that fact makes to the worsening of mental health in this country. It is no surprise that mental health does not improve if people have to wait up to two years to get treatment. Will the minister do something about that situation at last?

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

We have laid out what we will do in our action plans. The Government is determined to ensure that the additional resources that we have put in play are used effectively to do the best for the people of this country, particularly the young folk who are waiting for treatment.