Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton Constituency, has said that nearly 25,000 calls to Scotland’s mental health crisis support line having gone unanswered during the course of the pandemic is a disgrace.
This comes as new research from Scottish Labour shows that there has been a steady increase in waiting times and abandoned calls to the NHS 24 hotline since the Covid emergency started. Jackie Baillie is calling for a national recovery plan for the NHS that includes mental health services.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 133 calls went unanswered in March of last year, but in January this year the number was 5,452 – more than 40 times higher. Over the course of the pandemic, 24,947 calls have gone unanswered.
On New Year’s Day this year, 58 per cent of calls to the mental health hub were abandoned before they were answered. The average daily waiting time has increased from three minutes or less in March 2020 to over half an hour on some days in January 2021.
Furthermore, one-in-four children and young people referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are still rejected. For those who are successfully referred, they are supposed to be seen within 18 weeks – but this standard has never been met by the Scottish Government.
There are over 1,500 children and young people in the midst of a pandemic who have been waiting more than a year for support.
Jackie Baillie MSP said:
“We know the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the mental health of people in our local community and across the country.
“In- person mental health support has been more limited as a result of the crisis, and people have been encouraged to use the NHS 24 support line.
“But on nearly 25,000 occasions when individuals have built up the courage to pick up the phone and seek help, their calls have gone unanswered. There are simply not enough staff to cope.
“These are people in crisis, and it’s the same story with young people who reach out for help too.
“Right now, there are over 1500 children and young people in the midst of a pandemic who have been waiting more than a year for support.
“It’s actions, not promises, that save people’s lives.
“We need a parliament focused on a national recovery plan for our NHS that prioritises mental health services.”