Scottish mental health staff feel the pressure

Scottish mental health staff are working under increasing stress, says a new UNISON report, with 84% saying their workload has increased, and 76% reporting cuts that affect the quality of patient care.

The findings, which cover the last three years, come in the report See Us, which looked at the experience of workers across mental health services in the NHS, local government and the community and voluntary sector.

It brings together work carried out by UNISON Scotland among members delivering Scotland’s mental health services in acute wards, the community, working for the NHS, local authorities and the third sector, and gives voice to the concerns they have in their working life and for the services they provide.

Staff said that cuts in mental health services often go under the radar.

They reported that “it is difficult to recruit and retain staff and jobs do not get refilled” as “staff are leaving and not being replaced, or if replaced their position is downgraded”.

They also reported a freeze on vacant posts for both nursing and social care, with jobs being regraded and advertised at a lower levels so as to save money.

UNISON Scotland head of bargaining Dave Watson said the report “should serve as a warning.

“Mental health services remain the invisible part of the NHS,” he added. “Yet one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.  

“Wherever and whoever we asked – whether it was a psychiatric nurse on a hospital ward, or a mental health officer working for a council – they told the same story of workload increasing but resources being cut and time with each patient going down.

“Staff are stressed because they don’t feel that they are giving patients the service that they deserve or doing the work they are capable of.”

Mr Watson added: “There has been fantastic work by the See Me campaign in recent years to raise the visibility and status of those with mental health issues. 

“Today the staff are saying See Us – and if we do that, and take their concerns on board, we’ll have better more effective services for everyone.”

UNISON Scotland

Read the report: See Us – mental health staff survey [PDF]