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Outcry over NHS Scotland senior mental health vacancies

Calls have risen for the Scottish government to 'get serious' about mental health as new figures show that 1 in 8 senior NHS mental health positions currently sit vacant.

The figures were released as part of a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats and show that, of the 632 consultant psychiatrist positions available across Scotland, 82 remain unfilled.

The vacancies mean that none of NHS Scotland's 14 health boards have a complete mental health staff.

Both NHS Lothian and NHS Lanarkshire have the highest number of staff vacancies at 14 each, while neither NHS Western Isles nor NHS Orkney have a permanent senior mental health consultant on their board.

The data drew fury from the Scottish Liberal Democrats, with Lib Dem SMP Alex Cole-Hamilton saying that it was time the Scottish government 'get serious' over the funding of mental health services.

"These figures show gaping holes in mental health staffing," said Cole-Hamilton. "Not only is this bad for patients but it piles pressure on other services like accident and emergency.

"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."

The calls for investment follow the publishing of the Royal College of Psychiatrist's (RCP) 2021 manifesto earlier this month which highlighted the growing issue of mental health services in Scotland.

According to the report, the number of mental health inpatients across the country is at its highest for 20 years, increasing from 43,000 in 1997/98 to 51,400 in 2019/20.

In response, the RCP suggested that an extra £145 million investment was needed to address the growing demand for mental health support.

The amount was in addition to COVID-19 funding that had recently been approved to help cover any additional demand for health services caused by the pandemic.

"We call on all political parties to recognise there is no health without mental health, to adopt policies that deliver parity between physical and mental health, and work with partners to ensure there is no wrong door for all our diverse communities to accessing the right care, in the right place, at the right time for mental ill health," stated the report.


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