The number of mental health calls to NHS 24 has soared by 580% in four years as Scotland grapples with a “mental health epidemic”, according to new figures.
Scottish Labour called on the Scottish Government to act now to protect mental health services as the party released data obtained through a freedom of information request.
It showed that the number of calls made to NHS 24 regarding mental health issues rose from 20,434 in 2019 to 139,008 in 2022 – a 580% increase.
Meanwhile, the number of calls to the service that were abandoned has risen 6,200% in four years – from 645 in 2019 to 40,836 in 2022 – the figures showed.
In 2019, 3.2% of calls were abandoned compared with 29.4% in 2022.
Scottish Labour mental health spokesman Paul Sweeney said the Scottish Government must increase mental health funding to deal with this “unprecedented demand”.
Concerns around mental health funding have been exacerbated by plans to create a National Care Service which would centralise the social care sector.
Funding for the sector rose from £273.9m in 2021/22 to £290.2m in 2023; however, funding for the forthcoming financial year – 2023/24 – has been frozen at this rate.
Mr Sweeney said: “The numbers speak for themselves – Scotland is in the grips of a mental health epidemic and people need all the support they can get.
“The legacy of the pandemic and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis has been challenging for many people’s wellbeing, but an increase in demand for mental health support of this level is alarming.
“There is a concerning risk that this jump in mental health calls is partly due to people not being able to access the help they need from another primary care provider due to prolonged waiting lists.
“That the SNP is freezing spending on mental health services in this climate is nothing short of shameful.
“The SNP must start taking their commitment to increase mental health funding to 10% of the NHS budget seriously, starting by reversing their mental health funding freeze in the 2023/34 budget so that this unprecedented demand is met proportionately and efficiently.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Direct investment in mental health has more than doubled since 2020-21, with the draft budget for mental health services increasing 139% over this parliament, and we continue to invest in growing the workforce and seek further improvements.
“The mental health workforce has expanded significantly, with a record number of staff providing more varied support to a larger number of people than ever before.
“The psychology and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) staffing has more than doubled since 2007.”