Friday, 8 May 2015

Response from SNP Office 7 May 2015 to my Letter to the First Minister about SNP Manifesto and mental health

I received an Email from the SNP office on election day 7 May 2015 at 16.45, in response to my 'Letter to First Minister about SNP Manifesto and mental health: disappointing lack of attention: human rights; parity of esteem' sent 28 April 2015:

"Dear Mrs Muirhead,

Thank you for contacting Nicola Sturgeon MSP about mental health in the SNP Manifesto.

Apologies for the delay in responding but as you can imagine, the SNP has received a very high level or correspondence in the run-up to the election.

As health is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the SNP will expand further on our plans for mental health in our Holyrood Manifesto. However I am very happy to provide more detail on what actions the SNP Scottish Government is currently taking on mental health.

Mental illness is one of the major public health challenges in Scotland and although we are rightly proud of what we have collectively achieved in Scotland, there is more work to do. The Scottish Government’s commitment to meeting this challenge is underlined by the appointment of Jamie Hepburn as Mental Health Minister – the first minister to have this in his or her title.

The SNP will invest a further £15 million in mental health services over the next three years. This new funding will be targeted towards two main areas: a Mental Health Innovation Fund, and to boost staff numbers to address the mental health needs of children and adolescents and the rising demand for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Scotland’s NHS places equal importance on the care and treatment mental and physical illness, and this exists in legislation. The National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 states that Scottish Ministers have a duty to secure “improvement in the physical and mental health of the people of Scotland”.  It does not distinguish between the two. 

Scotland was the first country in the UK to introduce a waiting times target for access to psychological therapies. Before the SNP Government introduced this target, there was no robust national data on how Scotland performed for Psychological treatment. By setting these targets we can demonstrate how in Scotland we truly give mental health parity with other health services in what we do as well as in what we say. 

The SNP Scottish Government has introduced a new Mental Health (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament. The overarching aim of this legislation is to ensure that people with a mental health disorder are able to access effective treatment quickly and easily. We are also seeking to introduce further measures under this Bill to continue to protect and promote the human rights of mentally ill patients.

When the new Mental Health (Scotland) Bill is in force, it will provide a much improved legislative system to help treat and care for people with a mental health disorder. The amendments will remove unnecessary procedures and make existing processes more efficient for both patients and health professionals.

I hope this information is helpful for you and thank you again for getting in touch.

Kind Regards"


To which I responded on 7 May 2015 at 17.16:

"Thank you for responding to my letter to the First Minister about Mental Health in the SNP Manifesto.  (I have just come in the door from voting in our local village church hall)

I will put your response in a blog post for others to see, alongside my initial letter.

You mention the psychological therapies access waiting times target.  Unfortunately many of the health boards in Scotland are not meeting this target.  NHS Fife has only managed 58% and the target is 90%.  It is all very well setting targets but health boards will need support to achieve these in the present climate where money is tight.  Resources put in to psychology and psychotherapy services, to reduce the waiting times. 

You mention the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill in relation to accessing more effective treatment quicker.  However as a psychiatric survivor and carer of family members who have experience forced drug treatment in psychiatric settings, coupled with lack of choice regarding type of therapies and unsafe practices, resulting in human rights abuses, it is my opinion, and others also, that the Bill does not go nearly far enough in safeguarding the rights of the "mentally ill" or in widening choices.

You mention £15million over 3 years but say nothing about Parity of Esteem.  Bringing mental health services and psychiatric inpatient treatment up to and on a par with physical health treatment, money wise.  Michael Matheson when he was Minister for Public Health said that mental health was the "Cinderella" service.  I asked him via a blog post about who was going to be the Prince Charming and rescue mental health, increase the resource and financial input:

I asked Mr Matheson the same question again at last year's Carers Parliament on 8 October 2014 in Edinburgh.  The question has still not been answered.  Much more has to be done to bring equality in mental health care and treatment.

I hear what you are saying, regarding the Holyrood Manifesto which I take to mean for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in 2016.  About further plans for mental health.  I hope this is going to be substantially more than what we've seen in the Westminster SNP Manifesto.  The main UK political parties - Conservative, Labour and LibDem - appear to be taking mental health a lot more seriously than the SNP are.  Putting their money where their mouth is.  A commitment to action.  Scotland shouldn't be lagging behind, rather we should be leading the way.

I urge the SNP to be leaders in mental health matters and not followers, lagging behind.  It makes sense to listen to the psychiatric survivors and the Experts by Experience.

Yours sincerely"

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