Upon returning to Parliament following what was a busy recess in the Constituency, I was delighted to take part in a debate on the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government. The Programme sets out the SNP Government’s agenda for the next year, identifying spending and legislative priorities.
I took the opportunity during a debate to highlight what these announcements mean for mental health services.
I know from regular contact with the local health board that, as the stigma surrounding mental health has been progressively lifted in recent years, there has been a significant increase in the challenges faced by our health service in terms of delivering the high quality of care that I know they are determined to deliver.
Therefore, I was pleased that the Programme for Government has committed an additional £250 million of spending to complement the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy – and to promote positive mental health.
This will include £60 million for additional school nursing and counselling services. School years are a crucial stage in a person’s life in terms of tackling mental health problems and promoting healthy mental wellbeing. This funding will support 350 school counsellors and 250 additional school nurses.
In addition to this, by the end of the next academic year (2019-2020), every single local authority area in Scotland will have access to mental health training for teachers. An additional 80 counsellors will be funded to work across higher and further education, and a community-based mental wellbeing service for 5-24 year olds will be developed to offer immediate access to support for young people.
This is a truly transformative approach to how we approach mental health in our health service, and one that not only reflects a change in societal attitudes to mental health matters, but also addresses the increase in demand for such services as more and more people are gaining the confidence to seek the help that they require.
Across the Stirling and Forth Valley area, the Scottish Government is investing record amounts of funding into our NHS. Just recently, I welcomed an additional £500,000 in winter resilience funding for NHS Forth Valley.
Many people will remember the challenges of last year’s winter to our health service. With prolonged bad weather periods, and an outbreak of a particularly nasty strain of flu, many health services were seriously hit with and unprecedented level of high demand.
This half-a-million committed ahead of this year’s cold weather months will go a long way in ensuring that our local health service is well equipped for some of the challenges that winter can bring.
This week, I have attended the official handover for the new Bellfield Centre at the Stirling Health and Care Village. This £37 million project will, once completed, be a focal hub of modern health and care services in Stirling city and I look forward to its completion.
Locally in Doune, I have remained in touch with NHS Forth Valley on the opening of the new £3 million health centre for the village. I have received assurances that this is due to be completed by early-August 2019 and I look forward to hearing more of its progress.
I remain in close contact with the local community, GPs and health board regarding the situation with GP support provision in Aberfoyle and Buchlyvie. It is important that this issue is not used as an opportunity for individuals to make political points on; and I hope to see a resolution in the near future that meets the needs of local communities.