The Scottish Liberal Democrats have branded Scottish government claims over mental health staffing in the country “bogus”.
It comes after mental health minister Kevin Stewart claimed on Tuesday that “A total of 958.9 whole time equivalent mental health staff have been recruited in key settings over four years, significantly exceeding the original commitment for 800 additional workers”.
However, the Liberal Democrats claim the number of staff recruited totalled 625.3, with a number of the personnel based in other careers such as community workers.
The leader of the party, Alex Cole-Hamilton, has now filed a series of parliamentary questions as he seeks to get the “truth” from the Scottish Government.
He said: “It’s been clear for several years now that the Scottish Government were not going to meet this key staffing target, but rather than redouble their efforts, they have chosen to cheat and include staff recruited for other settings and claim that this means they have met their target.
“It is setting a bad precedent that the government is prepared to roll out bogus figures to claim mental health performance is better than it actually is.
“Community workers and psychology practitioners have an important role to play but this is not what this target was for.
“The Scottish Government have had five years to get on top of this issue.
“These parliamentary questions will help us to get to the bottom of the true level of staffing in our mental health services and expose the Scottish Government’s attempts to pull the wool over people’s eyes.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently warned the Scottish Government that even 800 staff wouldn’t be enough to meet the huge demand that exists in GP surgeries, A&E, in prisons and with the police.
“These critical services are under huge pressure. It is time for a major recruitment drive.”
Minister for mental wellbeing Kevin Stewart, said: “Our commitment to recruit an additional 800 mental health staff to frontline roles across Scotland was clear – we are delighted that we have not only achieved this, but exceeded it.
“The progress towards this target has been consistently and routinely publicly reported – reflecting the local decisions and priorities of integrated joint boards for their areas. We would hope that everyone would welcome these additional posts in these key settings.
“As well as this increasing staffing in community settings we have increased mental health staffing across the NHS.
“We’re increasing our direct mental health investment, includes funding 1,000 additional staff for GP practices to deliver access to a multi-disciplinary mental health and wellbeing service by 2026.
“We’re also supporting the recruitment of 320 additional staff in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by 2026, increase capacity for cases by over 10,000.”