A focus on prevention and early intervention services, as well as improving primary care provision, are to be a priority for the Scottish government’s inaugural minister for mental health.
Maureen Watt was appointed to the newly-created role during last week’s cabinet re-shuffle by first minister Nicola Sturgeon, in the wake of the Scottish National Party’s election win.
“NHS boards are seeing more people than ever before, but I’m clear that more work needs to be done”
Ms Watt – who was the minister for public health in the previous government – noted that her new role marked the UK’s only ministerial post dedicated solely to mental health. She said this demonstrated the importance the SNP placed on improving these services.
It follows the appointment by Labour last year of Luciana Berger as shadow cabinet minister for mental health in England.
Outlining her plans, Ms Watt said part of a recently announced £150m additional investment in mental health would be used to fund “new ways of responding to mental health issues in and around GP surgeries”.
She said there would also be more focus on prevention and early intervention, and that an “ask once, get help fast” approach – which was called for by charity the Scottish Association for Mental Health ahead of the election – would be in place by the end of the parliament.
She said the government would also look at new ways of delivering mental health services, such as by working with those in education to improve treatment for young children.
A 10-year strategy to transform mental health services in Scotland would be launched later this year, she added.
“In recent years we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people accessing mental health services. If that means more people are prepared to ask for help rather than suffer in silence that should be welcomed,” said Ms Watt.
“NHS boards are seeing more people than ever before, but I’m clear that more work needs to be done to meet the waiting time standards we have set,” she said.
“Big strides have been made, but there’s much still to do. Over this term of parliament we will transform the support available to people facing mental health issues,” she added.