Local News

Support for Mental Health Still Lacking

Orkney continues to have one of the poorest records for support delivered by Mental Health Officers in Scotland. Only the Health Board areas of the Western Isles and Fife are worse.

79 Extra Full Time Mental Health Officers Needed in Scotland

The number of workers supporting people with mental health in Scotland – Mental Health Officers – has decreased. As never before, the Covid pandemic highlighted the impact mental well being has in our communities. And yet despite this focus and pledges to do things differently, the number of hours MHO worked in local authorities decreased. This was especially the case in Glasgow which accounts for 25% of the total shortfall.

MHOs are specially trained social workers who carry out statutory duties in relation to mental health legislation. The reported shortfalls in staffing could result in delays to people accessing services, appropriate treatment and care and hospital discharges.

The table below shows the number of full time Mental Health Officers in each Health Board area and the number of hours they work per week as that part of their job.

Health Boardno. MHOweekly hrs MHO workweekly hrs per 10,000 pop
Ayrshire & Arran5561616.7
Forth Valley2359519.5
Greater Glasgow139258421.8
Western Isles53312.2

A newly published report, Mental Health Officers (Scotland) Report 2021, makes the following key points:

  • There were 694 filled MHO posts in 2021, which is 10 fewer than the 704 in 2020.
  • The number of individuals working as an MHO fell from 677 in 2020 to 660 in 2021.
  • The overall hours estimated to be spent on MHO duties each week in 2021 saw a very slight rise from 2020.
  • A small fall was seen in the estimated average time spent by MHOs in mental health teams on MHO work whereas an increase was seen in the estimated average time spent by MHOs from non-mental health teams.
  • Filled exclusive MHO posts rose by one (less than half a percent), the filled cover MHO posts rose by 13 (24.5%) and there was a fall of 24 non-exclusive posts (5.7%) (see note*). The overall fall in MHO posts was 10 (1.4%).
  • Between December 2020 and December 2021, 95 staff left 95 MHO posts, this is one more than the high of 94 between December 2018 and December 2019.
  • There was an increase in the number of authorities reporting an estimated shortfall in MHOs along with an increase in the total number of weekly additional hours estimated to be required.
  • There is a long-term trend which has been seen since records began in 2005 of increasing proportions of MHOs located in mental health teams and reducing proportions in non-mental health teams. Almost two-thirds of MHOs are now based in MHTs compared to roughly two-fifths in 2005.

Maree Allison, SSSC Acting Chief Executive said:

‘This report shows local authorities are facing significant challenges in providing the number of MHO hours needed to meet demand.

‘While some local authorities report no shortfall, others are well short of the provision required, which amounts to a shortfall of 109.2 hours each week when taken as an average across the 26 local authorities reporting a shortfall.

‘However, it also showed that although the number of MHO posts and the number of individuals working in them both dropped slightly in 2021, there was a very slight rise in the number of MHO hours worked when compared to 2020.

‘It’s important that local authorities, Scottish Government and others consider workforce planning, including succession planning and making sure enough people are training as MHOs, to meet future demand and our workforce data reports help them do that.’

Fiona Grahame

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