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A ten-year Mental Health Strategy
The Scottish Minister for Mental Health has launched a new ten-year strategy to improve mental health services. This is a welcome development, as questions have been raised in the Scottish Parliament about lengthy waiting times and difficulty in accessing mental health services, particularly for young people. A national UK survey by ITN last year also found that provision was very patchy, with a reduced number of hospital places, and unduly long waiting times to receive a service. The survey also found that a dearth of locally based services meant that people were often placed at some distance from their home.
The strategy was developed through a public consultation which produced 600 responses, and it also involved the NHS and local authorities. Strong passions were expressed: the Government acknowledged that 2/3 of people who needed a mental health service were not currently receiving it. They also stated that a mental health illness can reduce life expectancy by 20 years.
Increased funding had already been promised in 2016. The Government has now pledged further increased funding over the next five years of the strategy to bring the investment in mental health services to £350 million.
Aims of the strategy
The strategy aims for an agile, preventive and more widely staffed service. The Minister announced a 40 step strategy, which includes:
- Increased staff with mental health knowledge in various public services such as GP practices, prisons, and schools
- Earlier and more preventive intervention, meaning a protective focus on children and young people
- Improved support for perinatal Mental Health issues, and in primary care generally
- Reforming the Adults with Incapacity Act, and setting up a forum of experts to guide the implementation of the strategy
The Government is pursuing a long-term goal in this strategy to ensure that both mental and physical health services are of equal quality and evenly resourced.
Reaction to the strategy
SAMH, a leading voluntary organisation in Mental Health, have welcomed the strategy. However, they state that existing and proposed cuts in funding by local boards will absorb much of the new finance. They also do not see the strategy as effectively addressing the missed targets for waiting times for mental health support, particularly for young people.
However, they welcomed the undertaking to look at the levels of young people being refused support services, and stated that “We need to make mental health a priority across all government departments if Scotland is to be bold and innovative once again.”
It will be interesting to see how this strategy cashes out over the next years, and whether it brings about an increased profile and improved provision for mental health support services. Doing so promises to make the country a more healthy and better society.
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