16,500 NHS Staff Signed Off Work

6 January 2015, 10:24 | Updated: 6 January 2015, 10:28

Over 16,500 NHS staff in Scotland have been signed off work with mental health problems in the past two years, health board figures show.

There were 8,540 staff signed off in 2013/14 - up 7% on the 7,975 signed off in 2012/13, the figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show.

Lib Dem health spokesman Jim Hume said the figures demonstrate the SNP's "woeful'' record on mental health as Holyrood prepares to debate the issue today.

In 2013/14, 788 NHS staff were signed off for stress-related reasons for a period of between three and six months, the figures show.

Mr Hume said: "It's time the SNP Government faced the facts on mental health provision in Scotland.

"SNP ministers have been in government for seven years but barely anything has been done to improve problems that will affect one in four Scots at some point in their lives.

"Today we have revealed that 16,500 NHS staff have been unable to work at some point in the past two years because of mental health problems. This is another shocking figure which sheds more light on mental health problems in Scotland.

"Too many people are facing unacceptably long waits for treatment and children are being treated in inappropriate wards because of a shortage of both staff and capacity.

"I'm concerned that these figures may also show that NHS staff are bearing the brunt of SNP mismanagement of our hospitals.

"I will be challenging SNP ministers to set out plans for action to ensure our health service reflects the reality of problems faced by patients.

"So far their approach to mental health provision has fallen woefully short. It is clear that only Scottish Liberal Democrats will build a fairer society by giving mental health services the support they deserve. ''

Scottish Labour's Jenny Marra said: "These figures show the strain our NHS is under in Scotland, with staff working in increasingly underfunded conditions.

"We will support the NHS and nurses and use the money from a UK mansion tax to fund an additional 1,000 NHS nurses, including mental health nurses, to better meet the needs of mental health patients in Scotland.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Improving mental health and treating mental illness are two of our major priorities. We have made clear commitments to improve mental health services and support for people experiencing distress and mental ill health.

"At the end of last year, we announced an additional #15 million over the next three years for mental health services - to increase the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service workforce and to establish a Mental Health Innovation Fund. The fund will help to improve the quality of mental health services and support ways to deliver them better. In addition, we have also introduced a new Mental Health Bill to improve the operation of the well-regarded Mental Health Act 2003.

"There has been a year-on-year increase of seven percentage points on the 2013 NHS staff survey that would indicate more staff are feeling engaged. Health boards are required to comply with the Managing Health at Work PIN policy - which is currently under review - and this includes a policy on mental health. Boards are also required to ensure they have policies in place.

"We want more people who are experiencing mental ill health to seek support. The Scottish Government is committed to ending the stigma and discrimination sometimes experienced by people with mental health issues.

"In partnership with Comic Relief, Scottish Government has jointly commissioned a revitalised and ambitious programme of anti-discrimination and stigma work through the re-founded See Me programme. Comic Relief have added £500,000 per year to the Scottish Government's own commitment of #1 million per year over the next three years. This presents us with an ideal opportunity to maximise the potential for change and improvement.''