Ahead of the Scottish Budget - deputy first minister must do the right thing - By Dr Jess Sussmann

Scotland news
14 December 2022

With Christmas just around the corner it is difficult to look ahead and think about what will be in store for our frontline services in the New Year.

From living through a worldwide pandemic to the cost-of-living crisis the fact is, stress and worry are a very hard reality for thousands of Scots right now.    

Burnout and long waiting times has also meant our mental health services are so stretched, they’re now at breaking point.    

But given the fact that the economic climate poses a real threat to the nation’s mental health – it’s difficult to imagine that such little thought has been given to this area of the health service.   

In the Scottish Parliament last month, we heard the alarming news that £400m was to be cut from frontline services – there was also talk of proposed cuts of £38 million to planned mental health spending.  

As psychiatrists, we believe cuts of this magnitude would have a devasting effect on the services we work in and on the lives of the people who benefit from them.    

The proposed cuts come at a time when we have food insecurity, fuel poverty, debt, loneliness and all the isolation that comes with these problems.    

Those already living with a mental illness are more likely to suffer the consequences of the looming economic downturn – which will be felt for years to come.    

As frontline clinicians, we need to be ready to offer specialist high quality healthcare, that we know can make a difference. 

But what we have now is an already tight mental health budget having to stretch even further to keep pace with soaring inflation.    

We’re concerned that slashing mental health budgets at a time of crisis will mean that some people simply won’t get the help they so desperately need.   

Our recent research revealed there is only one consultant psychiatrist for every 10,250 people in Scotland – which is quite a statistic.     

And when it comes to children and young people’s mental health there is only one CAMHS consultant psychiatrist for every 16,350 young person under the age of 18.    

Enough is enough. We must ensure our mental health services are protected. The Scottish Government must get a grip and act now before the current crisis deepens.    

While we welcomed recent news of investment to create extra doctor training places – including 15 psychiatry places - we need more to keep up with demand.   

We want to see the Scottish Government guarantee that 10% of health spend is given to mental health and it receives its fair share of funding.   

The CAMHS crisis also needs urgently addressed. By 2026, 1% of what we spend on health should be directed to supporting the mental health of our children and young people.   

With bated breath we await John Swinney’s Scottish Budget announcement on Thursday.

For the sake of the mental health of our nation - we call on him to do the right thing.

Dr Jess Sussmann is a consultant psychiatrist and policy lead for RCPsych in Scotland.  

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