Mental health services in the NHS have “gaping holes” with one in eight senior posts lying vacant, new figures show.
Scottish Liberal Democrats demanded action after figures released under Freedom of Information showed that of 632 consultant psychiatrists posts in Scotland, 82 are not currently filled.
Details provided by health boards showed that neither NHS Western Isles nor NHS Orkney have a permanent consultant psychiatrist in place.
Meanwhile, both NHS Lothian and NHS Lanarkshire have 14 such vacancies amongst their staff.
As the figures were released Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton demanded the Scottish Government “get serious” about mental health staffing.
He said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats have championed the cause of our national mental health for several years but the reality is that there is serious work still to be done.
“Even before the pandemic there were thousands of children waiting more than a year for treatment and no-one seriously imagines that the situation has got better.
“These figures show gaping holes in mental health staffing. Not only is this bad for patients but it piles pressure on other services like accident and emergency.”
The Lib Dem MSP insisted: “The Scottish Government must get serious about staffing.
“They must invest in a proper national health service recovery plan that includes proposals that ensure our national mental health is a priority and puts the staff and resources in place to make that happen.”
A spokeswoman for the government said: “The Scottish Government has been working closely with all Boards over this period to plan the recovery of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) across Scotland and to help individual NHS Boards respond effectively to the anticipated increase in demand in the months ahead.
“We have provided an additional £15m to local authorities to respond to children and young people’s mental health issues, with a focus on those brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Part of this funding will also support local authorities to develop and implement community mental health and wellbeing services and supports. These new support services will be available for 5 – 25-year olds, their families and carers.
“This is the start of a long-term commitment to provide a new type of mental health support alongside psychological services provided through Cahms.
“This funding is in addition to ongoing annual funding to support the recruitment of an additional 80 mental health professionals to work with children and young people in Camhs services across Scotland, and our recent announcement of a further £3.6m to help provide more than 80 additional counsellors in every college and university in Scotland over the next four years.
“We are also ensuring that every secondary school will have access to a counsellor.”