The First Minister has today claimed that mental health care recruitment issues impacting NHS Highland are due to Brexit, a statement Edward Mountain MSP has called “shameful and disrespectful” to families and friends who have lost loved ones due to mental health issues.
The Highlands and Islands MSP has called on the First Minister to spend more time looking at the specific issues which are unique to the Highlands and are impacting recruitment of remote rural mental health practitioners.
Edward Mountain is currently leading a cross-party effort with Rhoda Grant MSP to urge the Scottish Government for additional support for the delivery of mental health care in rural Highland communities.
The cross-party effort came after Edward Mountain MSP and Rhoda Grant MSP led discussions with NHS Highland during the summer to identify which major obstacles stood in the way of an enhanced mental health care provision for the region.
During the First Minster’s Covid-19 Statement today, Edward Mountain asked:
“The First Minister will be aware of the enormous strain on the provision of mental health treatment across the country, which has been exasperated by Covid.
“The Chief Executive of NHS Highland has told me, personnel shortages are the problem not funding, and that she is not happy with the ‘offering in terms of responsiveness and support’.
“Can the First Minister confirm what action is being taken to secure specialist support in the Highlands from outwith NHS Highland before more constituents lose their lives.
The First Minister replied:
“Edward Mountain is right that funding of course is vital but if that funding is not then able to secure the recruitment of staff then it’s not going to have the desired effect.
“There’s a range of support in place to help with recruitment across the National Health Service and social care and we will continue to support NHS Highland and other health boards in recruiting the staff that they need.”
The First Minister then added:
“Many people who came to Scotland from other European countries provided great contributions and support and many of them have now been lost to our public services and to our economy as a result of the wrongheaded ending of freedom of movement, which we are all now paying a significant price for.
“So I take my responsibility for supporting the NHS to deal with these challenges but perhaps Conservative members could take this message to their bosses in Westminster and spell it out to them, in no uncertain terms, the damage Brexit is doing to our National Health Service and Social Care across the country.”
Following the First Minister’s statement, Edward Mountain MSP said:
“I am deeply frustrated that the First Minister believes it is appropriate to blame everything on Brexit.
“It is clear there have been long-running problems with NHS Highland’s provision of mental health care and which a cross-party group led by Rhoda Grant MSP and myself have raised with the SNP Health Secretary recently.
“We need to know what action the Scottish Government is taking to offer more support to NHS Highland when it comes housing, career development and pay scales for rural mental health practitioners.
“However, today the First Minister ignored those key concerns and instead gave a shameful and disrespectful response which gives cold comfort to those families and friends who have lost loved ones in recent years. The Highlands deserve better than this.
“If the First Minister cannot answer my question effectively, then maybe she should spend some more time looking at the facts specific to the Highlands.”