Around a quarter of senior mental health roles in NHS boards are either vacant or filled by locum staff.
New data from the Scottish Liberal Democrats using freedom of information legislation showed of the 586 whole-time equivalent consultant psychiatrist roles in Scottish health boards, 162 had no full-time appointee late last year.
Commenting on the research, Dr Pavan Srireddy of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland said:
“These figures come as no surprise and are hugely concerning because they reflect a workforce in crisis.
“Services are stretched, and staffing gaps have a very real impact on patient safety, putting people’s lives at risk.
“Morale amongst mental health staff is at an all-time low and the announcement of further, disproportionate cuts is bitterly disappointing. We fear it will only increase burnout and drive even more staff away from specialist mental health services.
“We’d be keen to work with all concerned in addressing this critical situation as an urgent focus is desperately needed now.”