The leader of Dundee City Council has responded to an independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside.
John Alexander has today posted a statement on Facebook, stating that the capacity of the services “needs to increase” and that there are “too many people spread too thinly”.
An inquiry to examine the accessibility, safety, quality and standards of care provided by all mental health services in the region was commissioned after concerns were raised in the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Alexander wrote: “Last week in a 136-page document, Dr David Strang set out the results and recommendations stemming from the independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside.
“I spent the weekend pouring over the entirety of the document, considering it’s contents and thinking about what kind of service could be provided if those 51 recommendations are adopted.
“It’s vital that each word on those page is taken in. It was hard hitting, honest and to be frank, painted a deeply worrying picture of where things were.
“Mental health and it’s impact on too many people is an issue very close to my heart, even closer more recently but it’s also something that isn’t talked about enough – between family members and friends. I spent my Sunday morning with friends and one of the things we were talking about was the battles with mental health.
“I defy anyone to find someone that doesn’t have a family member, friend or someone that they work with who hasn’t suffered from issues related to mental health.
“We need to continue to remove any stigma associated with it and support those who need support. There is of course, a wide spectrum and the impacts can often be unseen, sometimes until it’s too late.
“There continues to be a significant number of people in crisis, at the end of their tether and struggling to manage daily life. What this report says very strongly and clearly is that people have been let down by services in Tayside. What it also says is that going forward, the services must change.
“The bottom line for me is that the capacity of those services needs to increase. There are too many people spread too thinly and too many silos that don’t allow for sustained collaboration.
“The Chief Executive of NHS Tayside has, to his credit, apologised for those failings and has said that his “…personal commitment to the people of Tayside is that I will work with them to address all the recommendations made by Dr Strang in his report.”
“I’ve already discussed the matter with officers and look forward to meeting with NHS colleagues to see what actions have already been taken forward and hear how they intent to address the 51 recommendations.
“This report has been long anticipated and whilst I think there was a general expectation that there were issues, the fact that it has done such a thorough analysis and 1,500 interviews during that process should provide the evidence base required to make some big and necessary changes.”
A young woman pulled from the River Tay on Monday has died in hospital.
The woman, who has not been named, is understood to have been in the Tay at the south side of the road bridge for around 15 minutes before she was rescued.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Around 11.35am on Monday, 10 February officers responded to a report of concern for a woman in the River Tay near Dundee.
“A 32-year-old woman was recovered from the water and taken to Ninewells Hospital where she later died.
“There are no apparent suspicious circumstances and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”
A statement from Broughty Ferry lifeboat crew said: “Broughty Ferry RNLI crews responded with both lifeboats to a report of person in river near to Tay Road Bridge.
“The call came in via coastguard at 11.37am. By 12pm the first lifeboat had arrived on scene to find the casualty had been removed from the water on to a local work boat.
“The casualty was then transferred to the all-weather lifeboat where crews provided emergency care during rapid transfer to lifeboat station, where the casualty was passed into the care of waiting ambulance crews.”
The spokesman said the conditions for the crew were difficult during the rescue.
He added: “This was a difficult rescue and the crew are all understandably subdued.”
The statement continued: “If you are worried about something or know somebody who needs help but don’t know how to approach things then call Breathing Space on 0800 838587.”
NICOLA STURGEON was pressed to intervene and save failing mental health services at a Scottish health board today after the publication of a damning report earlier this week.
At First Minister’s Questions, the SNP leader was pushed to commit to a swathe of measures at NHS Tayside.
The independent inquiry into mental health services in the region found a culture of “fear and blame,” with more than 50 suggestions made about how to make improvements.
Scotland’s Labour leader Richard Leonard asked Ms Sturgeon whether her government would step in at the health board and put in place “special measures” to ensure implementation of the recommendations.
He said: “NHS Tayside has a history of evading scrutiny, deflecting criticism and resisting change.
“They have repeatedly ignored recommendations from Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Mental Welfare Commission.
“Will you today instruct your Cabinet Secretary to re-escalate NHS Tayside’s mental health services so that your government steps in to drive the transformation of mental health services in Tayside?
“First Minister, will you do the right thing?”
Ms Sturgeon said she offered her apologies to all families who had been let down by the NHS.
She added: “The Scottish government will continue to take the action that is already under way and we will consider all suggestions.
“We will continue to monitor the progress of NHS Tayside through the Tayside Oversight Group, which is a vital part of the picture here.
“As I said, the Mental Health Minister will keep Parliament updated and we have proactively asked David Strang to review this after a year and to provide an update into the progress that has been made.”
The number of people with mental health issues being readmitted to hospital in Tayside within a month of their discharge is increasing.
More than 16% of Tayside adults discharged from hospital, having been admitted on mental health grounds, were back within a month in 2016/17, according to new figures.
The readmission rate has increased from 11.9% in 2012/13.
NHS Tayside is above the Scottish average for mental health hospital readmissions in the most recent statistics compiled by ISD Scotland.
At 16.3%, it was behind only NHS boards in Dumfries & Galloway and Lothian.
The majority of patients readmitted after an initial stay in hospital were affected by mood disorders (36.9%), delusional type disorders (19.2%) and adult personality and behavioural disorders (15.8%).
North East Scottish Conservative MSP Bill Bowman said the increase in readmissions for depression is “very troubling”.
The ISD figures also recorded NHS Tayside region had the fourth highest suicide rate in Scotland, behind Forth Valley, Highlands and Orkney – 14.4 per 100,000 between 2012 and 2016.
Mr Bowman said: “At some point, one in four people will experience a mental health condition.
“NHS Tayside staff are doing their best to deal with the growing number of people who come to them with symptoms of depression and low mood.
“Because Tayside has such a high suicide rate, NHS Tayside needs resources to dig into why people come back to hospital so quickly.
“If it’s because of underfunding in areas run by councils and community healthcare partnerships, the SNP government needs to assess the potential damage it is doing by making cuts to local authority budgets.”
A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said: “Mental illnesses can be unpredictable and there are many reasons why a patient may require to be readmitted following discharge from hospital.
“Patients can sometimes experience a new episode of illness for which admission to hospital is the most appropriate course of treatment.
“Patients are discharged following clinical assessment from a consultant psychiatrist and are followed up locally within the community.
“There is no direct relationship between the length of time a patient is in hospital and the need to be readmitted.”
She added: “Anyone can become suicidal; the reasons can be different and very complex and it is not always due to mental illness. Each suicide is a tragedy and the impact on those left behind lasts a lifetime.
“Every suicide in Tayside is comprehensively reviewed by the Tayside multi-agency Suicide Review Group to look at the circumstances surrounding each individual case.
“f people are feeling suicidal, the best thing to do is talk and tell someone how they are feeling. Speak to someone you can trust or call a helpline. If you’re worried that someone else is suicidal, ask them – asking someone directly about their feelings can help them.”
Further help and information can be found by downloading the “Suicide? Help!” app, visiting www.suicidehelp.co.uk or calling NHS 24 on 111, Samaritans on Freephone 116 123 or Breathing Space on 0800 838587 or www.breathingspacescotland.co.uk
An independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside is currently under way.
The gap in life expectancy between men from poorer and more affluent areas of Dundee is the worst in Scotland.
Figures from the National Records of Scotland revealed men living in the city’s most deprived areas will die, on average, at the age of 68, but men in the city’s least deprived parts will live to 82.
The gap is the widest in Scotland.
For women, those living in the most and least deprived areas have a life expectancy of 76 and 83, respectively.
Jimmy Black, who chaired Dundee’s Fairness Commission, said the disparity was a “scandalous statistic”.
He said: “There are a lot of factors that contribute to that — such as when young men commit suicide or die as a result of the misuse of alcohol or drugs in their twenties, thirties or forties.
“There are a lot of problems that tie into poverty, such as people not being able to live as well as those in better-off areas, but I know the council is working to do something about it.”
Dundee City Council leader John Alexander said the council was “absolutely determined” to improve life chances for people in the city through the newly launched City Plan.
He added: “We are acutely aware of the issues of low life expectancy in the city and we are working hard to tackle the causes, which are many and varied. There are no easy answers. We know there are huge challenges in our city and we do not underestimate the tasks that we face.”
As a whole, Dundonians are expected to live longer now than they were at the turn of the millennium. Average life expectancy across the city is 74.5 years for men, based on analysis carried out in 2014-16 and 2016, up from 71.9 years in 2001-03. Women are expected to live for 79.6 years on average, up from 77.7.
However, the almost entirely urban council area is near the bottom of the national tables and far below the Scottish averages of 77 years for men and 81 years for women.
A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said: “Across Tayside, in those areas where there is higher deprivation, people have a much higher chance of poorer health. There are a number of ways people can better their health, giving up smoking being the most significant.
“Smoking makes the biggest difference to life expectancy.”