The impact of the pandemic on our population has been far reaching. Those who are suffering from long Covid should have access to the right mental health support at the right time. Our general practitioners and local healthcare teams are best placed to offer advice or treatment for mental health concerns, and they continue to work tirelessly to ensure that help and support is available to anyone who needs it.
In addition, we have worked with NHS inform to develop a dedicated long Covid website, which provides information and support in relation to low mood and depression, and anxiety, with signposting to self-help guides.
Underpinning the range of support that is available across the country is the Scottish Government’s record funding for our national health service, which includes unprecedented investment for mental health services.
Managing the mental health impacts of the pandemic remains an integral part of our plans to refresh our mental health strategy. There will be an opportunity for us to consider how we improve existing support for people with long Covid and ensure that that support is consistently available across Scotland.
Long Covid is a serious issue in the aftermath of the pandemic, with tens of thousands of Scots estimated to be suffering from it. We should have had the opportunity to discuss the issue in a debate that was, unfortunately, postponed by the Scottish Government. When the Government responds on the issue, will the minister ensure that treatment for the potentially debilitating mental health aspect of long Covid is included as part of that?
Of course, the mental health aspect should be included. Subject to the Parliament’s agreement, we intend to bring back to the Parliament a long Covid debate on 19 May. That will allow ministers to provide a fuller update on progress, as we will not be bound by the pre-election period restrictions in which we currently find ourselves. I am quite sure that Mr Whittle will be looking forward to that debate.
Mental health is one of the major public health challenges in Scotland, and I put on record my thanks to NHS staff and the Scottish Government for ensuring that that has remained a priority throughout the response to Covid-19. Will the minister provide an update on the increase in mental health staff since the Scottish National Party came into office? Will he set out the action that the Government is taking to increase the number of mental health staff, to allow our patients to access support in their communities?
There is no doubt that the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of our population will be felt for years to come. We are investing record levels of funding and expect total spend on mental health, including by NHS Scotland, to exceed £1.2 billion in the current financial year. That funding will help services in all areas respond to the needs of the communities that they support, including in the member’s constituency.
In response to Ms Brown’s question about staffing, I should say that, since this Government came to power in 2007, the mental health workforce has increased. There has been a 95.6 per cent rise in the number of psychology staff, a 34.7 per cent rise in mental health nurses, a 21.6 per cent rise in consultant psychiatrists, and an 83.4 per cent rise in staff in children’s and adult mental health services.