An independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside could lead to improvements across Scotland.
David Strang, the inquiry’s chairman, launched the public call for evidence to the inquiry in Dundee on Wednesday.
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.
Mr Strang, a former HM chief inspector of prisons, said he wants to hear about positive and negative experiences of mental health services.
He said: “This is an important milestone today for the independent inquiry.
“I want to hear from people who have experience of mental health services in Tayside. That might be someone who has been, or still is a patient, family members or carers and other organisations, third sector organisations and charities, that support people in Tayside.”
Mr Strang said he would respect the “confidentiality” of any NHS Tayside employees who come forward.
He said: “I’m also keen to hear from members of staff from NHS Tayside if they want to tell me about their experiences of mental health services in Tayside.
“What I would say is I will respect he confidentiality of what they say. My preference would be that people, when they submit evidence, would say who they are because that is helpful but clearly, if people want to submit wholly anonymous evidence they will be able to do that.”
Mr Strang added: “I am expecting to hear about experiences that have been good as well as experiences that have, perhaps, been poor.
“What I’m hoping for this inquiry is that it will lead to improvements in mental health service in Tayside and potentially across Scotland.
“I am sure I will identify areas of good practice. It is important to recognise where things are working as well as to identify areas that need improvement.
“But my focus will be about how we improve services.
“We will look in detail at all the mental health services in Tayside. We’ll do comparisons with other areas, not just in Scotland but outwith.
“I have a clinical advisor to the inquiry who is a psychiatrist from outwith Tayside and I am based at the university so am quite independent. The secretariat for the inquiry is provided by the university so we will be taking an objective and independent look at mental health services.”
Mr Strang said both the stakeholder participation group, made up of patients, their relatives and carers, and an NHS Tayside employee participation group will help to shape the direction of the inquiry.
Submissions should be made to the inquiry by the October 19 but Mr Strang said it is impossible to say how long the inquiry will take to conclude.
He said: “We will analyse the submissions that will then inform the future direction of the inquiry. I think that will highlight some key issues that show clearly areas we need to look at.
“It will take as long as it takes. There is a balance between being comprehensive and not taking too long.
“I will want to examine the key issues and then put forward conclusions and recommendations.
“There was a debate in parliament on May 9 this year when there were concerns expressed about mental health services in Tayside and the result of that debate was there is cross party support for an independent inquiry. There is an appetite for improvement.
“Certainly I’ve had very positive messages from NHS Tayside that they will co-operate with the inquiry and look forward to its conclusions.”
Evidence can be submitted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Independent Inquiry, 15/16 Springfield, Dundee, DD1 4JE.
Appointments will be available in October for anyone who wants to submit evidence orally.