Nearly 25,000 calls to an NHS mental health crisis hub phone line have gone unanswered during the pandemic, Scottish Labour says.
Party leader Anas Sarwar urged the Government to do more on mental health, during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.
Referring to the NHS 24 mental health hub, he said the number of unanswered calls rose from 133 in March last year to 5,452 in January 2021 – more than 40 times higher.
Scottish Labour received the figures in a freedom of information request, showing 24,947 calls have gone unanswered throughout the pandemic.
Mr Sarwar also criticised waiting times in the mental health services for children and young people, saying 1,500 people have waited more than a year for help.
He said: “This issue didn’t start with Covid, but it has gotten worse as a consequence of it.
“What those people who made those 25,000 unanswered calls need is a Parliament focused on a recovery plan for our NHS that includes mental health services.
“After 14 years of this Government, after seven years as First Minister, does the First Minister ever wonder what Scotland could have achieved for those young people if we had focused on what had united us and not what divided us?”
Defending her Government’s record on mental health, Nicola Sturgeon said any unanswered calls are unacceptable.
She said: “I recognise the challenges we face on mental health but he didn’t outline a few weeks before an election a single positive solution.”
She said the Government is investing more and reforming the mental health system to increase early preventative interventions.
Ms Sturgeon continued: “I do agree very much with Anas Sarwar, it’s not just about words, it’s about actions and about commitment and that is what this Government demonstrates each and every single day.
“That will be the programme and the record we put before the people of Scotland in a few weeks’ time.”
The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland later said they were concerned by the figures revealed in the freedom of information request.
Chairwoman elect, Dr Linda Findlay, said: “Even before the pandemic hit, mental health services were overstretched and underfunded.
“People should be getting the help and advice for their mental health that they so vitally need.
“We do welcome funding commitments made by the Scottish Government, but these statistics show that we need urgent steps taken to address staffing and resource gaps.”