Falkirk mental health staff furious at statement in First Ministers 'route map'

Mental health clinicians are asking for clarification over a statement made in Nicola Sturgeon’s route map though and out of the COVID-19 crisis published this week.

By James Trimble
Saturday, 23rd May 2020, 10:14 am
Updated Saturday, 23rd May 2020, 10:14 am

The document, which was published during Mental Health Awareness Week, contains a paragraph which seems to suggest – to a large number of mental health staff – that mental health services have not been operating during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The publication stated: “Health and Social Care: In this phase we expect to begin the safe restart of NHS services, covering primary, and community services including mental health.”

One mental health clinician stated: “At best this is very unclear and at worst it is a slight against myself and my colleagues. For the Scottish Government to share this misinformation is like a kick in the teeth.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched Scotland's route map out of the coronavirus lockdown during Mental Health Awareness Week

“Mental health services never stopped – all my colleagues both in the wards and in the community have worked tirelessly through this time and they have had to deal with COVID-19 on top of that as well.

“Treating mental health conditions never stops and I fear we will have to continue to work as we do for a long long time coming to help people through all the worry, fear and distress these times have caused.”

Another mental health worker added: “I have seen mental health services sidelined in daily breifings a few times.”

Workers, who know acute mental health services have been running throughout the pandemic, stated the route map paragraph probably refers to some community mental health services which were stopped or limited during the COVID-19 crisis, but they still believe the paragraph is misleading.

On hearing staff’s concerns, the Scottish Government responded by saying how much they valued the efforts of all health workers and acknowledged mental health care had been provided throughout the coronavirus outbreak, but did not comment on the paragraph in the publication.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are hugely appreciative of our health and social care workers who have been providing mental health care for patients throughout this time both in inpatient and community settings.

“We have been clear the NHS is open for business and anyone concerned about their health should get in touch with their GP or NHS24, including for mental health issues.

“While there has been a necessary adjustments to mental health services to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, and some services have had to be delivered in different ways, mental health services continue to be provided and we have also issued a set of principles to NHS boards to guide and ensure the delivery of mental health services throughout the outbreak.

“We have provided £5.8 million of additional funding to create new online support services and increase the capacity of existing ones and also launched a national campaign “Clear Your Head” to help the population look after their own mental health and wellbeing during - and after - the coronavirus outbreak.

“This includes practical advice on coping with restrictions and also signposting to existing services.”