The lack of funding for Mental Health services for Children and Young People (CAMHS) in Orkney has been criticised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland.
Research by the College reveals the level of spending per head of population on mental health services for children and young people aged 0-17 years varies significantly across the country.
In Orkney in 2019/20 only £20 was spent per head of population, the lowest for any Health Board in Scotland. In comparison in The Western Isles £156 per head was spent.
Dr Helen Smith, chair of the CAMHS faculty at RCPsych in Scotland, said:
“The level of spending on CAMHS across the country really is quite striking. Huge areas are vastly underfunded, while other areas with a lower population are receiving more money.
“It doesn’t make sense that a child under the age of 17 gets a different level of service when it comes to their mental health, depending on where they live.”
The figures for Scotland for 2019/20 reveal a staggering unevenness across Scotland. If you are a young person where you live really does matter when it comes to support when you need it most.
Mental Health and Wellbeing in Scotland
In his first annual report, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith reported how ‘the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the health inequalities that exist across our society.’
It can be seen from the research by RCPsych in Scotland, that those inequalities relate not only to income but to geographical location.
Dr Gregor Smith’s report highlights issues which Covid19 restrictions have brought to the fore:
Isolation and loneliness in particular continue to have profound impacts on individuals and communities.
Current levels of loneliness (54%) are substantially higher than the benchmark figure of 21% pre-COVID-19 obtained from the 2018 Scottish Household Survey
Not only has there been a sustained increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation but unemployment and loss of income is having a major effect on mental well being.
Dr Gregor Smith’s report states:
Measures taken to control viral spread during the pandemic have meant that many businesses and organisations were forced to temporarily close, or significantly adapt their ways of working. Unemployment is correlated with increased risk of poor physical and mental health, and an increase in the prevalence of health-harming behaviours. Employability support is crucial in Scotland’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Financial difficulties can have a major impact on both physical and mental health.
Dr Helen Smith, chair of the CAMHS faculty at RCPsych in Scotland has welcomed recent funding in mental health services. She said:
“We do welcome recent investment of £40m, but it’s only the first step towards ensuring there is equivalent resourcing for children and young people’s physical and mental health care and as our figures show, disparities between health boards need to be tackled.
“That’s why, we’re appealing to all political parties in the run up to the election, to now look into how these vital services are funded across each health board – so every child and young person is given the best chance of treatment and support wherever they may live in Scotland.”
So what have the political parties being saying?
Reaction from Scotland’s politicians
Liam McArthur is defending his Orkney Constituency seat in the Scottish Parliament for the Liberal Democrats. He said:
“We’ve known for some years that local CAMH services are being stretched to breaking point in Orkney and that greater investment is needed to increase capacity and better support staff.
“However, these latest figures revealing the actual spend per head of population in Orkney are alarming to say the least.
“Staff are working flat out to help those in need but, without the proper level of funding being made available for services, it’s inevitably going to result to delays in care and treatment. Every moment that someone has to wait longer than necessary for support risks causing more harm.
“In February, MSPs finally declared a mental health crisis following what has been a particularly damaging year for our country’s mental health and wellbeing and the Scottish Liberal Democrats then helped to secure an additional £120million in the budget for mental health support.
“We urgently need that funding to be allocated to areas most in need, such as CAMH services on the islands, so that care and interventions can be scaled up to prevent situations where people who are struggling are being left isolated and vulnerable.”
Contesting the Orkney seat for the Scottish National Party is Robert Leslie. He said:
“It is a real concern to see the disparity in spending between the island areas, where population sizes are roughly the same. However there may be explanations behind this, such as recruitment issues, and I would be keen to explore these with NHS Orkney and seek a solution.
“I also believe that there are a number of counsellors in Orkney who are currently under-utilised due to lack of funding, so it may be useful to explore whether the £139 million extra for mental health services announced by the Scottish Government in its budget could be used to enhance local services.
“Lockdown restrictions, although vital for stopping the spread of the virus, have clearly had a negative impact on many people’s health and wellbeing. I know folk across Orkney have experienced financial insecurity alongside social isolation and the anxiety of living through a pandemic. Many organisations across the islands are working hard to support the mental health of folk using their services at this time, but we need to create a more sustainable solution.
“The Scottish Government’s additional funding takes spending on mental health services to over £1.1 billion. That budget pledge is a significant step forward to help improve the mental health support available for children, young people and adults across Scotland. It is important, though, to ensure that the resources are targeted appropriately in Orkney so that we can tackle these problems effectively.”
The Scottish Greens have declared that Mental health should be at the heart of Scotland’s healthcare systems.
They have pledged to allocate 10% of frontline health spend to mental health by 2026, invest an additional £161 million into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and expand access to remedies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Social Prescribing. They also want a mental health worker in every GP practice in Scotland
Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens co-leader said:
“Just like physical health, everyone can have poor mental health at some point in their lives, and the pandemic has been a difficult year for so many. We’ve seen how important access to green space and the outdoors is to our wellbeing.
“ We need to prioritise support for children and young people, ensure mental health support is available at all GP practices, and expand access to remedies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Social Prescribing.
Labour in Scotland have announced a National Recovery Plan which seeks to address a ‘growing mental health crisis’.
Anas Sarwar, leader of the Labour Party in Scotland said:
“Waiting times have soared, there are missing cancer patients, a growing mental health crisis, and an exhausted workforce.
“Restoring the NHS and Scotland’s health will be key to Scotland’s recovery, and we can’t go back to the old way of doing things.”
The Plan includes investment in mental health services to improve support, end rejected referrals, and support good mental health in the workplace.
The support is there from politicians. Everyone can see the need for a far better response to the mental health and wellbeing issues facing people across age groups. This is a public health crisis which will have a lasting effect on people well after the covid19 pandemic has passed.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame