Is access to care getting worse?

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland recently commissioned a YouGov poll of 1,080 adults to ask about access and funding to mental health services.

The survey revealed 40% think that it is harder to access mental health services now than it was five years ago, while seven in 10 Scots (69%) thought funding for both mental and physical health should be prioritised equally.

The new data comes as budget priorities for 2023/24 were just about to be rubber stamped by the deputy first minister, John Swinney.

Budget proposals published in November revealed funding for mental health services in Scotland will remain frozen in 2023/24, amounting to a real terms cut in funding.

But the Scottish Government's decision to freeze mental health funding comes at a time when the overall health budget has increased by 6.2%.

In 2021/22, funding for mental health in Scotland increased from £273.9m to £290.2m in 2022/23. However, the Emergency Budget Review then cut funding for mental health by £38m in November 2022.

Now proposals for the 2023/24 budget, merely reverses this mid-year cut – returning funding to the same level allocated for 2022/23.

And so far, there have been no assurances that mental health services will see the 10% commitment promised by the SNP and coalition partners the Scottish Greens, in their 2021 manifesto.

Dr Jess Sussmann, consultant psychiatrist and policy lead for RCPsych in Scotland, said:

“Our poll shows what the public really think. That services are struggling and the majority want funding for physical and mental health to be equal.

“The Scottish Government’s decision to freeze mental health budgets does not reflect the public’s wish for mental and physical health to be prioritised equally.

“We’re also worried that proposals to move mental health services into the new National Care Service lacks clarity at a time when frontline services are struggling to meet demand, especially with the cost-of-living crisis and the fallout from the pandemic.

“It’s simple. Failure to increase the mental health budget is a failure in recognising ever-rising demand.

“It’s time the Scottish Government came up with a solution as mental health must not be dealt a hammer blow.”

The funding freeze comes after a poll by the Scottish Government revealed 48% of Scots felt their mental health had been negatively impacted by the cost-of-living crisis rising to 76% amongst the worst off.

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