A large increase in the number of NHS Tayside staff taking sick days due to mental health issues has been labelled “appalling”.
A total of 267,198 days were taken due to mental health between January 2017 and December 2017, an increase of more than 9% when compared to 2016.
North East Liberal Democrat MSP, Mike Rumbles said: “These figures are appalling and the health minister should hang her head in shame.
“Patients in NHS Tayside have every right to be outraged. Underfunding of local services, staff shortages and a lack of resources has put our healthcare system under extreme pressure. It is no wonder that staff morale is at rock bottom.
“I have repeatedly asked the minister to look again at how we fund and support our local health boards, particularly in the North East region, but the Scottish Government has refused to take any responsibility for the damage it has caused.
“In some areas our health services are now years behind the rest of the country. Ministers are happy to pay lip service to tackling issues like mental health but this evidence shows that underfunding of our NHS has done more to contribute to the problem than aid it.”
An employee at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, who did not wish to be named, said staff morale is at rock bottom.
The employee said: “Over the years there has been increased staff sickness particularly in nursing, leading to staff shortage or staff shortage leading to sickness.
“I fear there is a lack of professional support.
“The situation is similar all over Tayside, in Perth Royal Infirmary and Ninewells Hospital. Sickness levels are at an extreme high.”
The Scottish Government said NHS Tayside is being funded by an additional £13.7 million in 2018/19, bringing baseline funding to £734.8 million.
A spokesperson said: ““Staff at NHS Tayside continue to do a fantastic job, day in and day out – not least in emergency care services where 98% of patients were seen within four hours in March – continuing its record as one of the best providers of emergency care anywhere in the UK.”
North East region Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr added that the Scottish Government’s running of healthcare was impacting staff morale.
He said: “The SNP’s record in 11 years of running the health service is inadequate, and we are now seeing their legacy in the people left to pick up the slack.
“The mismanagement and financial chaos facing our NHS cannot continue – it is impacting on health services and NHS staff morale.”
George Doherty, NHS Tayside Director of Human Resources, said the health board recognised that having a healthy and effective workforce is “key to delivering high quality health care”.
He said: “NHS Tayside is committed to life-long health and wellbeing of staff and places equal value on both physical and mental health. We work closely with staff side representatives to tackle the impact of issues that may affect our employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
“Given so many of us can be affected by stress, creating an environment in NHS Tayside where people feel more relaxed to talk about mental health and stress-related issues is key to ensuring that we can give people the support they need, when they need it.”