SNP ministers accused of inflating mental health recruitment figures

SNP ministers have been accused of inflating mental health recruitment figures after boasting they had beaten their own target.

Opponents insisted the Scottish Government was guilty of “spin” after it said it had exceeded a commitment to recruit an additional 800 mental health staff to frontline roles.

It said 958 full-time equivalent mental health workers have been taken on for deployment across Scotland’s hospitals, GP surgeries, police station custody suites and prisons.

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A target of 800 staff had been set in the Government’s mental health strategy for 2017-27.

The Scottish Government said a commitment to recruit an additional 800 mental health staff to frontline roles had been exceeded.

This said ministers would boost the workforce “to increase access to dedicated mental health professionals in all A&Es, all GP practices, every police station custody suite, and to our prisons”.

But the Scottish Liberal Democrats highlighted figures showing the number of full-time equivalent staff recruited for those four key settings actually totals just 625.3, with the remainder based in other settings such as community workers.

The party’s deputy leader Wendy Chamberlain said: “It’s pretty low for the Scottish Government to roll in staff recruited for other settings and claim that this means they have met their target.

“Community workers and psychology practitioners have an important role to play but this is not what this target was for.

“Let’s be real about the human cost of this failure. People in crisis are continuing to suffer.

"Yet their government’s first response is to spin the numbers and inflate the figures.”

SNP mental wellbeing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Improving mental health is a priority for the Scottish Government and these figures show how seriously we are taking this.

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"I am pleased that we have exceeded our commitment and recruited almost 1,000 additional mental health professionals across these key settings.

“Mental illness is one of the major public health challenges in Scotland. Around one-in-three people are estimated to be affected by mental illness in any one year.

"We want a Scotland where we act on the knowledge that failing to recognise, prioritise and treat mental health problems costs not only our economy, but also harms individuals and communities.

“We have allocated nearly £84 million to enable recruitment to these posts and this has been achieved in spite of the unprecedented impacts of the pandemic on our health and social care services.”

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