Mental health services under 'significant pressure', Holyrood committee warns

Concerns over increasing demand, rising living costs and the NHS 'workforce crisis' have been raised in a new report.

A new report from a Holyrood committee has raised concerns over significant pressure on Scotland’s adult mental health services.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee heard evidence of an increasing demand for mental healthcare, with the Covid pandemic and cost of living crisis putting even more pressure on already strained services.

Wednesday’s report calls on the Scottish Government to work with partners to improve the quality of data available to better understand demand for services.

Among the Committee’s concerns in the report are the “workforce crisis” facing NHS psychiatrists, and the costly over-reliance on locums that poses a risk to the quality of services provided.

While the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensure that every GP practice has access to a mental health and wellbeing service by 2026 is welcome, the Committee wants assurances that funding will be provided to make this commitment a reality.

The Committee is also clear that it is not the role of police officers to fill the gap in the mental healthcare system. It welcomes the work being done by Police Scotland to identify local policing partnership initiatives that could be implemented at a national level to reduce the impact on police resources.

The report underscores the pressing need for better data collection, equal access to services for minorities, and sustainable funding for the third sector to enable organisations to plan their services more effectively and to provide reassurance to people who use them that these services will continue.

Richard Leonard, Convener of the Public Audit Committee, said: “We heard the message loud and clear from those we took evidence from – this is a system under immense pressure.

“Demand is rising, and despite a significant increase in funding for adult mental health services over recent years, incomplete and poor-quality data makes it difficult to know with any certainty whether this has led to an improvement in people’s mental health.

“The Committee welcomes the work underway to address a lack of information on primary care and will be keeping a close eye on the progress of this work.

“We are also concerned that not everyone who prefers face-to-face support is receiving it and call on the Scottish Government to look into why there is such a significant variation in the number of face-to-face versus remote appointments across Scotland.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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