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Date: Wednesday 4 March 2015

UNISON report says that ‘mental health staff are working under increasing stress’

More than 8 in 10 (84%) of mental health staff say that their workload has increased, more than 7 in 10 (76%) say they have experienced cuts, with the quality of patient services in decline, in the last three years.

Those are the findings of a new report into working in Scotland’s Mental Health Services, by public services union UNISON. The report See Us was compiled by the trade union who represent workers in all the sectors which deliver services in mental health – the NHS, councils and the third sector.

The trade union has been doing survey work across its members who work in Mental Health and 84% reported that they had increases in their workload in the last three years. 76% of staff report cut backs in their workplaces in the last 3 years. Meaning staff spend less time with each patient.

Staff said that cuts in mental health services often go under the radar. They report that ‘it is difficult to recruit and retain staff and  jobs do not get refilled’ and that ‘staff are leaving and not being replaced, or if replaced their position is downgraded’ and that there is a freeze on vacant posts for both nursing and social care, and jobs get re-graded and advertised at a lower levels to save money.

Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland head of bargaining and campaigns, said  ‘This report should serve as a warning. Mental health services remain the invisible part of the NHS. Yet one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.  Wherever and whoever we asked, whether it was a Psychiatric Nurse on a hospital ward, or a Mental Health Officer working for a council – they told the same story of workload increasing but resources being cut and time with each patient going down. Staff are stressed because they don’t feel that they are giving patients the service that they deserve or doing the work they are capable of’

Dave Watson continued, ‘there has been fantastic work by the See Me campaign in recent years to raise the visibility and status of those with mental health issues. Today the staff are saying See Us – and if we do that, and take their concerns on board , we’ll have better more effective services for everyone.’

Quotes from mental health staff include:

“(We) are subjected to regular staff shortages and high stress.” – Community Psychiatric Nurse

“I was off  work related stress for three months last year due to trying to do three people's jobs to statutory deadlines and not succeeding.”  - Mental Health Officer

“Increased stress levels as just don't have enough time to meet all deadlines. Also spending more and more time on non patient related activities.” - Deputy Charge Nurse

“There is an increase in the paperwork for statistical purposes.” – Registered Mental Nurse

“Higher caseloads with fewer staff leads to higher stress and people being incompletely treated reducing job satisfaction and increasing frustration.” – Occupational Therapist


Notes to Editor

  • UNISON is the largest trade union in NHS Scotland. We represent mental health staff in NHS, voluntary and private sectors
  • This report is the result of work carried out by UNISON Scotland amongst our members who work delivering Scotland’s mental health services; acute wards, in the community, working for the NHS, Local Authorities and the Third Sector. It aims to give expression to the concerns they have in their working life and for the services they provide. 

For further information contact

  • Danny Phillips, UNISON Scotland, communications officer 0141 342 2877 / 07944 644 110
  • Dave Watson, UNISON Scotland, head of bargaining and campaigns 0141 342 2840 / 07958 122409