- Susan Aitkenhead Director, Royal College of Nursing Scotland www.rcn.org.uk/scotland

The impact of the past year on the nation’s mental health cannot be underestim­ated. For so many, issues such as social isolation, financial worries and bereavemen­t are understand­ably taking a toll.

There are also worrying signs of the severe psychologi­cal impact on our health and social care sta , who will need long-term support as they process the sustained pressure and individual trauma of caring for others though the pandemic.

We’ve seen disruption to the delivery of mental health services, including delays to diagnosis and treatment. These services were already under strain with only 75% of those requiring care being referred for psychologi­cal therapies, and 60% of children and young people accessing CAMHS starting their treatment within the 18 week target before the pandemic.

While the long term e ect on our mental health will not be known for some time, the next Scottish government must act quickly to build capacity within our mental health services to be able to support those who need it as we move into recovery.

Mental health nursing sta are fundamenta­l in the delivery of these services with expert skills and knowledge to deliver the right care and treatment. But over the past five years we’ve seen nursing vacancies rise with over 660 posts unfilled at the end of last year.

Growing the mental health nursing workforce is vital. Rather than a figure being based on a best guess or identified funding, we want to see systematic modelling to project the growth required in the mental health nursing workforce and a fully costed workforce plan in place by the end of this year.

Recognitio­n of the consequenc­es of not supporting mental health, and support for the services that provide the right treatment and clinical care, need to be at the centre of Scotland’s recovery from COVID-19.

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