Auditors say access to mental health services must improve_2

8 Jun 09
People with mental health problems need faster access to services, an Audit Scotland survey has found

15th May 2009

By David Scott in Edinburgh

People with mental health problems need faster access to services, an Audit Scotland survey has found.

In a report published on May 14, the public finance watchdog said there had been significant developments in the way mental health services were provided, with a focus on shifting resources from hospitals to the community.

But it warned that ‘staff shortages can affect the availability of services and lead to long waiting times’, particularly for children and adolescents.

It also stressed that better information was needed about socially excluded people to identify unmet need and ensure resources were targeted to those most in need of support.

The report, Overview of mental health services, estimated that there were up to 850,000 people with mental health problems at any one time in Scotland.

Deputy auditor general for Scotland Caroline Gardner said that this figure amounted to one in six Scots.

She added: ‘It is important that comprehensive services are provided across Scotland that are easy to access and meet people’s needs.

‘There have been programmes to reduce the stigma of mental health problems but more needs to be done, including the need to ensure that people can access the services as quickly as possible and that they can get help out of hours or at times of crisis.’

Accounts commission chair John Baillie said: ‘More can be done at a local level to provide a more joined-up service.’

Mental health problems can include a wide range of conditions, with varying symptoms and severity, such as depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

According to the study, the wider costs of health problems amount to more than £8bn a year. The NHS spent £928m on mental health services in Scotland but the total amount spent by councils is unknown.

The report pointed out that while mental health problems can affect anyone, people who are likely to be socially excluded, such as those living in deprived areas, are at higher risk.

Suicide rates in Scotland were found to be higher than in England and Wales.

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