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Friday, 31 March 2017

Concern over elderly mental health provision as new Strategy launched in Scotland

Written by The Editorial Team

The Scottish Government has published a new ten year mental health strategy amid concerns of future mental health provison for older people.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament, Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt MSP (pictured) cited improving access to services and supporting early intervention as key aims of the new plan which includes 40 actions and ambitions for improving services.

However, Scottish Care, who represent almost 900 independent social care services in Scotland, were critical of a 'complete lack of a dedicated focus on the mental health needs of older Scots'.
 
Among the 40 actions set out in the strategy for 2017-27 are:
  • Increasing the mental health workforce in Accident and Emergency, GP practices, police station custody suites and prisons – supported by an additional 800 workers
  • Testing out the most effective and sustainable models of supporting mental health in primary care settings
  • Reviewing the role of counselling and guidance services in schools to make sure that they are delivering for children and young people
  • Setting up a forum of mental health stakeholders that will meet twice a year to help guide the implementation of the strategy’s actions over the coming years
  • Improving support for preventative and less intensive services (tiers 1 and 2 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)) to tackle issues earlier

Maureen Watt said: “As Scotland’s first dedicated Minister for Mental Health, I have been driven by a simple principle - that we must prevent and treat mental health problems with the same commitment and drive as we do physical health.

“This guiding ambition is at the heart of the new Mental Health Strategy, working to intervene as early as possible to prevent issues developing while ensuring anyone need only ask once to get the help they need fast. This strategy has been fundamentally shaped by the feedback from organisations and service users. Their views have demonstrated passion and the need for change.

“Whether in schools, workplaces, communities or care facilities, we will take forward an initial 40 actions to shape change and ensure mental health has true parity of esteem with physical health.

“None of the improvements can be realised without having the right staff in the right place. That’s why over the next five years we will increase our investment to a further £35 million for 800 additional mental health workers in key settings like A&Es, GP surgeries, custody suites, and prisons.

“The strategy is just a first step, and I believe working with stakeholders and with MSPs across the parliament it can be built on in the years to come. I believe together we can deliver the mental health support, care and services that the people of Scotland deserve.”

While the strategy was widely welcomed, there were serious concerns raised around the mental health needs of the elderly. In a statement, Scottish Care called for more focussed work to identify the current gaps in services for the elderly.

In their statement released today, they said: "When the Mental Health Framework was published last year, Scottish Care with others welcomed its particular focus on the lifespan especially its recognition of the needs of older persons. We see little of this reflected in the Strategy.

"Our ageing population will and its increase by 86% by 2037 will inevitably mean a higher proportion of those with mental health needs being over the age of 65 and also a higher proportion of these individuals requiring the support of elderly care services. It is therefore crucial that we ensure high quality mental health care and support is built into the provision of these services, which nearly 100,000 people across Scotland access.

"To fail to adequately recognise, plan for and seek to improve the mental health needs and supports for this population through the Strategy would amount to a serious human rights and equalities issue. We are not convinced the published strategy achieves this.

"Scottish Care regrets the complete lack of a dedicated focus on the mental health needs of older Scots in the new Strategy. We are calling for more focussed work to identify the current gaps in support for older people with mental health conditions including social care gaps, and prioritised support and training of staff in care services to deliver positive outcomes for individuals with mental health conditions."

Welcoming the Strategy, Colin McKay, Chief Executive of the Mental Welfare Commission, said: "Mental illness can devastate people's lives. Without early intervention or regular support in the community, individuals can lose confidence, struggle to keep up their connections in society, and fail to achieve their potential in life.

"Given this, we welcome Scotland's new mental health strategy, and its vision and ambitions.

"To ensure the strategy has a real impact on people's lives, the next step is to bring clarity as to how its actions will be delivered, and by whom. It is also vital to have measurable outcomes. There must be a shared and effective process of monitoring the strategy, and whether it is effective. We are committed to working with government, and with others, to take this forward."

Background

The £35 million to increase the mental health workforce is on top of an additional £150 million over five years announced in 2016 for improvement and innovation. This means that over the next five years the total Scottish Government direct investment in mental health will be more than £300 million.

The Mental Health Strategy was informed by nearly 600 responses received to a public consultation and developed with input from local authorities and NHS Boards.

The Scottish Government estimate two thirds of people who would benefit from treatment for a mental illness are not being currently supported, while mental health illness can reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years.