First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said an interim report into mental health services in Tayside will be published “imminently”.
Responding to questions from Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard about the inquiry, Ms Sturgeon said she would expect relatives who campaigned for the inquiry to be given advance copies of the interim report, which is expected to be published this month.
The inquiry was launched following a public campaign by families who blamed poor care at the Carseview Psychiatric Centre at Ninewells Hospital for a series of suicides.
The interim report will be published next week although it will be several months before the full inquiry report is completed.
Mr Leonard told the First Minister that some of the relatives whose campaigning led to the inquiry feel they have not been kept up-to-date with its progress and believe it is not “transparent”.
He said that when the inquiry was set up then health secretary Shona Robison said it should be seen as “a force for good” and asked if Ms Sturgeon believed this aspiration is being met.
Mr Sturgeon said it would be wrong for the Scottish Government to “pre-empt” the inquiry but said its findings would be scrutinised and any recommendations acted upon.
She added: “Of course we want to learn lessons and our sympathies are with the families who have experienced those losses.
“We established an independent inquiry in Tayside. That hasn’t yet reported. I hope it will report soon and it will be fully scrutinised by the government.”
Mr Leonard said Mandy McLaren, the mother of Dundee suicide victim Dale Thomson, has lost confidence in the inquiry.
He said: “She asked me to ask you directly if families will see an advance copy of the interim report before it is published.
“Will you listen to the voices of those families? Will you do what you can do to restore their confidence in this inquiry?”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “This inquiry is being led by David Strang. It is an independent inquiry.
“If the government was interfering in the conduct of that inquiry, I am sure Richard Leonard would be raising that in the chamber.
“I understand David Strang has met with family members. It would be full my expectation that an advance copy of the report would go to those directly affected.
“I will pass that specific point to David Strang but I would stress it is an independent inquiry.”
Earlier, Conservative MSP Bill Bowman pressed health secretary Jeane Freeman over plans for a 24-hour crisis centre in Dundee.
Councillor Ken Lynn, the the vice-chairman of Dundee Heath and Social Care Partnership, has pledged his “total commitment” to creating a centre in Dundee, but Ms Freeman the issue had not been raised with her or the minister for mental health, Claire Haughey.
Mr Bowman said later: “It was clear from the cabinet secretary’s answer that the SNP are disconnected from the challenges faced on the ground.
“There seems to be no plans for the new centre in Dundee, or for the government to help NHS Tayside create one.”
The parents of a young Dundee dad who took his own life have hit out at thieves who stole sentimental trinkets from their son’s grave.
Lee Welsh, 27, was found dead at his Peddie Street home in the city’s West End in August 2017 after suffering from depression.
His dad Phil and mum Lesley discovered the heartbreaking theft when they visited Lee’s grave at Birkhill Cemetery on Sunday.
Phil said: “Lesley had four little glass trinkets in the shape of diamonds hanging on the little fence that goes round the gravestone.
“They aren’t worth anything financially but they are significant to us as a family as the words ‘Shine on you crazy diamond’ from a Pink Floyd song are engraved on the gravestone.
“We know they aren’t worth any money but it has been really upsetting for us.
“When we realised they had been taken we were really hurt.”
Phil added: “Whoever took them probably doesn’t think too much about what they have done but I want them to realise that taking things from a grave can be desperately upsetting for those left behind and grieving.
“People should think more carefully about their actions and be aware of the hurt they can cause.”
Since Lee died, Phil and Lesley have been campaigning for a 24/7 crisis centre in Dundee to give immediate access to people having suicidal thoughts.
They have also organised various fundraising events for groups and centres that currently offer support.
The next event is a soup and pudding lunch to be held at Dundee West Church on May 25.
Money raised from the lunch will this year go to the Art Angel charity.
Lesley said: “Art Angel is a unique and inspired arts project run by and for people with experience of mental health difficulties in Dundee.
“It helps people work towards recovery and mental wellbeing.”
A similar event last year raised almost £1,000 for Dundee Association for Mental Health (DAMH).
The second Lee Welsh memorial football match is also planned for July 20.
It will be held at North End Park and this year the money raised will be donated to Art Angel on behalf of the Not in Vain for Lee charity.
As well as football, there will be other attractions including a bouncy castle, face and henna painting and a demonstration by Dundee Mods Scooter Club.
Last year’s match, organised by Lee’s childhood friend Steve Martin, raised more than £1,000 for DAMH.
A probe into serious abuse allegations at Carseview could impact a controversial shake-up of mental health services.
The first phase of a planned review, which will see general adult psychiatry acute admissions centralised in Dundee, is due to begin in June.
However, health chiefs say they are prepared to make changes if necessary,when the findings of an independent investigation into claims patients were pinned to the floor and mocked by staff at the Carseview mental health unit in Ninewells.
The Perth and Kinross Integration Joint Board heard preparatory work on the mental health review is already under way, with the first phase due to begin in June.
The plan was agreed in January 2018, following months of consultation and protest. Learning disability inpatient services will be provided at Murray Royal Hospital Perth, after services were transferred out of the outdated Mulberry unit at Stracathro in Angus.
The board was given an update by the four-person panel leading the review.
Conservative councillor Colin Stewart asked: “We’ve heard that we need to work quickly to address risks, but we are also told there are delays to the redesign programme.
“I understand there is going to be an interim report on the independent inquiry published later this month.
“Have you had any indication that there may be points raised for action in this report, that might have implications for the redesign programme?”
Arlene Wood, associate director for mental health, confirmed she had not had any feedback or update on the review. “The clear steer that we have had from the chief executive is that we continue, for now, on the quality improvement and redesign programme because we know there are inherent risks in the system and this work needs to happen,” she said.
“It would be remiss of us to wait for the report. If there are things raised that require us to change our course of action, then we would address that at the time.”
The board heard the heads of health partnerships in Dundee, Perth and Angus were working on a Tayside Mental Health Alliance, to tackle a range of challenges facing the sector.
Professor Keith Matthews, associate medical director for mental health services said: “It would be a mistake to underestimate how challenging the environment is for mental health services.
“We have issues with recruitment and there are emerging difficulties with retention of staff.”
He said the Scottish Government was attempting to address a national shortage of psychiatrists with an international recruitment campaign.
“Although many efforts are being taken to resolve these matters, the likelihood of anything being resolved soon are pretty low.”
He added there was a need to move away from a workforce reliant on high-cost agency work.
“Concrete evidence” of how valuable an axed Angus mental health unit was has sparked calls for its return.
It comes after figures revealed Angus mental health sufferers have spent 17,000 days receiving treatment in Dundee since radical care changes.
The Mulberry Unit at Stracathro Hospital closed to acute inpatients in 2017 due to a shortage of junior doctors and Angus patients were forced to uproot to Dundee.
The decision to officially close the unit as a general adult psychiatry base came in 2018, despite a high-profile campaign to retain local health services.
Since February 2017, the Carseview clinic in Ninewells Hospital has admitted 212 patients who would have been seen at Stracathro.
A total of 461 admissions were made involving Angus residents between February 2017 and February this year, including 19 intensive psychiatric care unit (IPCU) patients.
Angus patients spent 16,707 bed days in the new Mulberry ward at Carseview, in Dundee, for mental health admissions.
Brechin Community Council chairwoman Jill Scott said: “All the predictions have proved to be correct.
“Nobody listened then and nobody will listen now.
“What does it take for those who claim to have our best interests at heart to realise that these vulnerable Angus patients need to be given adequate and proper care?
“We had a purpose-built facility providing the best possible care and outcomes for patients.
“Now they are being herded into a facility miles from home and bursting at the seams.
All this is done in the name of economy.
“Shame on every single person involved in the decision that closed Mulberry Unit, leaving many patients and family members in a state of distress.
“NHS Tayside must act in the best interests of these vulnerable patients and re-open Mulberry.
Scottish Conservative MP Kirstene Hair said the figures show the Stracathro unit is “still sorely missed.”
She said: “The closure of the Mulberry Unit at Stracathro was a blow for local healthcare and a sad day for many who relied on the facility – or knew someone that had.
“I still strongly believe it was a mistake and that it should be re-instated.
“I appreciate the medical staff at Ninewells do a great job under high pressure but these figures are concrete evidence of how valuable the unit in Angus was to local residents.
“It is sorely missed by the people who needed it most, who should have been at the centre of the decision-making.
“The so-called consultation was a tick-box exercise which was shown to be deeply unfair.”
Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership host General Adult Psychiatry inpatient services in Tayside.
A spokesperson said, “It is important to remember that most people with a mental health problem are treated at home or in the community. When it is no longer possible to do this safely, a patient will be admitted to hospital.
“Approximately only 6% of people who access our mental health services each year need hospital care.
“Angus residents were admitted to General Adult Psychiatry beds outside of Angus prior to the 2017 relocation of the Mulberry Unit from the Susan Carnegie Centre at Stracathro Hospital and whilst the move of Mulberry was a change – the practice of admitting patients based on clinical need has not changed.
“Community Mental Health Teams and services in Angus continue to provide high quality care to those using outpatient services and at home.
“We have also been redesigning services to adapt to the changing needs of our populations and new services have been introduced to manage people in crisis and support people to remain at home.
“Our communities would expect treatment to be available to them and their families when it is required and we remain committed to ensuring our patients can access the best treatment in the most appropriate place.”
The independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside has retired to consider the key issues hampering the system’s ability to care for patients.
Launched following pressure from the families of suicide victims in Dundee, the inquiry’s evidence stage has concluded after receiving hundreds of submissions from the public.
Alongside other evidence, these will now be examined by the inquiry, chaired by former chief inspector of prisons David Strang.
Mr Strang said: “I am pleased with the response we have received to our public call for evidence. More than 200 people have submitted written documents and personal statements and there have been more than 60 oral evidence sessions held.
“Evidence has been submitted from a wide range of people including patients, families, carers, NHS employees and third-sector organisations.”
Agencies such as Police Scotland, student welfare teams and Dundee Drugs Misuse Commission have also contributed.
The evidence stage has taken several months, with discussions held with parties with an interest in improving mental health services.
The inquiry has visited psychiatric units including the Carseview Centre, the Rohallion Clinic and Stracathro in order to understand the systems currently in place.
The information it has gathered to date will be used to identify key issues in mental health services.
A statement from inquiry chiefs said: “The next stage of the inquiry’s work is to analyse all the data evidence, relevant government reports, statistical data, internal NHS review documents and data, in order to identify common themes which will then be the subject of further investigation and analysis.”
The inquiry was commissioned by NHS Tayside last year after campaign group Lost Souls of Dundee claimed it had identified at least 10 suicides which could have been prevented in the area.