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Extra money for mental health staff

SHETLAND is set to be given additional funding from the Scottish Government to employ extra staff for its adult mental health team.

Members of the isles’ integration joint board (IJB), which oversees health and social care, were told on Wednesday that Shetland will benefit from a government drive to bolster mental health provision in Scotland with an extra investment of £35 million over the next five years.

However, officials are unclear as to whether it links into another £250 million promised by first minister Nicola Sturgeon this week in a wide-ranging programme of measures over the next five years including ensuring all secondary schools have counselling services.

Shetland will receive a total of £156,821 by 2021/22 to recruit an additional 3.92 whole time equivalent members of staff as a direct result of an action featured in Scotland’s Mental Health Strategy which aims to boost the country’s mental health workforce.

But it comes at a time when the IJB is looking into how the Shetland Islands Council-funded community mental health services, provided from Annsbrae in Lerwick, can be redesigned to create efficiencies of £200,000.

Service user representative Maggie Gemmill said at Wednesday’s meeting that she was concerned things would be taken “no further forward” as a result – but officers reiterated that the redesign should see patients receive better outcomes.

Members of the IJB were told that in order to access the full Mental Health Strategy funding, an action plan needed to be submitted to set out how the money will be used locally.

The action plan covers “additional core staff, training, technology and backfill for learning from other areas”.

It also identified gaps in core service in cognitive behavioural therapy, occupational therapy, a skill mix that utilises recovery pathways and community links.

The health board’s head of mental health Karen Smith said that while the programme focused providing dedicated workers for the likes of A&E wards, GP practices and police custody suites, she has had assurances that the money can be spent locally on “core staff”.

Councillor Emma Macdonald questioned how easy it would be find the extra staff, with Smith saying she is “going to remain optimistic that we will recruit”.

But she admitted that “we don’t know what plan B is if we don’t recruit”.

NHS Shetland wants to have mental health multi-disciplinary teams across all of Shetland’s seven areas within the next five years, supported by specialists in Lerwick.

Smith added that one way the health service is also looking to boost provision is by training people in giving group therapy.

IJB members were also told on Wednesday that the board has a projected overspend this financial year in mental health of £371,000 as a result of shelling out on a locum consultant, flights and accommodation through to September 2018.

NHS Shetland, meanwhile, was one of only three health boards in Scotland that met child and adolescent mental health waiting time targets for the quarter ending June 2018.

Shetland, Ayrshire & Arran and the Western Isles had at least 90 per cent of children and young people seen within 18 weeks.