Warnings of mental health ’emergency’ as a third of helpline calls ignored

ALMOST a third of all calls to Scotland’s mental health helpline went unanswered in one year, new data has revealed.

Details obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats shows that more than 40,000 phone calls to the NHS24 Mental Health Hub went unanswered between June 2020 and June 2021.

Of the total 129,200 calls, 31 per cent were abandoned, according to official data revealed under Freedom of Information laws, while 88,776 were answered.

In March Nicola Sturgeon said that abandoned calls were “unacceptable” however there have been 13,000 calls unanswered since then.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the party’s leader, said that people who needed support were just not getting it.

He said: “I don’t think anyone among us would say that the last eighteen months have been easy. The pandemic has imposed an enormous mental burden on people who may have already been struggling. 

“Unfortunately these figures show that many of those who reached out for help didn’t get it. They join the many others who have already been let down by the dearth of mental health support in this country.”

Speaking on World Mental Health Day today, he added: “The Scottish Government shamefully abandoned the training of new mental health first aiders when the pandemic struck, falling far behind England where online training never ceased.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats secured an additional £120m for mental health in the last budget but this is just a fraction of the commitment that is needed if we are to transform mental health treatment in this country.”

Meanwhile Labour has called for an improvement in mental health treatment in Scotland, arguing that the waiting times for children are too long.

Carol Mochan MSP, the party’s health spokeswoman, said that almost 12,000 children were currently waiting for treatment and waiting lists were at an all-time high.

She called for mental health professionals in every GP practice in the country, adding: “We are facing a growing mental health emergency in Scotland.

“Services are stretched to breaking point, with children languishing on record waiting lists and patients routinely waiting more than a year for treatment.

“The full effect of the pandemic on mental health remains to be seen – but we are creating a timebomb for ourselves if we don’t act now.   

“After the trauma and sacrifices of the last year and a half, the very least we owe people is reliable mental health support.”

Of the 12,000 children waiting for treatment, nearly half have been waiting for more than 18 weeks, which is the treatment target, while 1700 have been waiting for more then 12 months for help.

On the CAMHS waiting ties, the Scottish Government said it was “committed” to meeting its targets, with a spokesman adding: “ Long waits are unacceptable.”

He added that more than £40m had been provided for service improvements this year, in addition to a £120m mental health fund.

He explained: “This funding will lead to substantial improvements in the mental health care that children and young people receive in Scotland, ensuring that the right support is available in the right place at the right time.”

On the abandoned phonecalls, Minister for Mental Wellbeing Kevin Stewart said the government was going to invest £4m to “increase capacity” of the mental health hub, and by 2026 every GP practice would have “access to a mental health and wellbeing service.”

He added: “We know the pandemic has had a substantial impact on the mental health of the population, and is likely to continue to do so.

“We will continue to deliver on the actions set out in our Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan, backed by £120 million, and ensure that people can get the right help at the right time.”



The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992