1. To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the budget for its mental health directorate having increased substantially in the past three years, how it plans to measure the impact of this spend, including outcomes for people with mental health conditions. (S6O-02806)
The new 10-year mental health and wellbeing strategy, which is jointly owned by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, was published in June. It includes outcomes that describe the differences or changes that we want to see as a result of the strategy. We will use those outcomes to monitor and evaluate progress as the strategy is implemented. That will build on work that we have already delivered to improve data collection by health boards and to publish new core standards for mental health.
As the minister will be aware, my question relates to one of the central recommendations in Audit Scotland’s report on adult mental health. In the Public Audit Committee’s evidence sessions, it has been noted that people are unclear about the range of options that are available to them and are rarely surveyed about the quality of service that they receive and whether they feel that their outcomes are improving. Can the minister offer reassurance that that will be a priority in the coming years?
Absolutely. The mental health standards that I referenced are crucial to ensuring that everybody—those accessing care and those delivering care—knows what standards are expected from them. Those standards will be really empowering for people who try to access support services, because they will ensure that people understand what to expect in the way of care.
The strategy sets out national sources of support. In the first instance, people are encouraged to phone their general practice, which is, of course, the front door to the national health service. However, there is also the NHS 24 mental health hub, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on 111. Staff from that service will direct people to the right help. We also provide online resources, such as the mind to mind service, which is situated on NHS Inform—the Scottish NHS on the net. All of that sits alongside a range of community support.
The member for Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley mentioned an increase in funding for the directorate, but that does not reflect the reality on the ground. Last week, the Scottish Government confirmed an in-year cut of £30 million to mental health funding. This is the second year running that in-year cuts have been made to mental health spending. How does the Government expect patients to have confidence in mental health services when the only consistent thing about its approach is budget cuts?
The financial pressures that we face as a result of rising inflation and the on-going impacts of Covid and Brexit are by far the most challenging since devolution. As a Government, we have had to make difficult decisions to balance and prioritise the budget, including making a record pay offer to our national health service staff to support them through the cost of living crisis and to avoid industrial action.
The new “Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy” strongly signals the priority that we place on mental health. Despite the 2023-24 savings, we have supported overall increases to mental health spending over a period of years. The mental health directorate’s programme budget has more than doubled since 2020-21, from £117 million to nearly £260 million in 2023-24. Between the Scottish Government and national health service boards, we expect spending on mental health to be well in excess of £1.3 billion.
We continue to focus on the delivery of our new mental health and wellbeing strategy, as well as supporting delivery plans for learning disability and autism services and cross-cutting trauma work.