'At this year’s annual Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Congress, RCN members discussed the urgent need to deliver parity of esteem between mental and physical health services across the UK and in all health care settings. The resolution was passed by members who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the motion to ‘condemn the UK governments’ failure to deliver “parity of esteem”’ and urged RCN’s governing body – RCN Council – to address this ‘urgently’.
'In Scotland, the Scottish Government recently published its new ten-year Mental Health Strategy. While it undoubtedly puts Scotland on the right path by committing to equal status for mental and physical health, it’s not as ambitious as RCN Scotland had hoped and, crucially, it lacks enough detail on how parity of esteem will be delivered, in light of the many challenges currently facing Scotland’s mental health services.
'A couple of examples amply illustrate the challenges: the latest figures from the Scottish Government’s Information Services Division reveal that over 2,250 people had to wait more than 18 weeks from when they were referred to when they started psychological therapy treatments. And mental health services for children and adolescents are under huge pressure, with some children having to wait over 600 days – yes, six hundred days – for essential mental health treatment, according to Freedom of Information requests by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
'The vacancy rate in mental health nursing in NHS Scotland is contributing to these pressures. There are now over 360 vacancies in mental health nursing, with almost 30% (108) of those vacant for three months or more.
'So there’s a pressing need, firstly, to make sure that people can access the right care when and where it’s needed; secondly, that there are enough mental health nurses, with the right skills and experience to deliver mental health services; and thirdly, that the political will and determination exists to make parity happen.
'That’s why RCN Scotland is continuing to push for a more ambitious mental health strategy which shows clearly how it will deliver what Scotland needs.'