Core mental health standards

These core standards support adult secondary services with the aim of improving quality and safety of mental health services for people in Scotland.

Ministerial Foreword

There is no health without mental health.

Our recently published Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy sets out the vision of a Scotland, free from stigma and inequality, where everyone fulfils their right to achieve the best mental health and wellbeing possible. In delivering this vision, we recognise that it is essential that the services and support that people need should be built around clear national frameworks.

Over the past two years, we have worked with partners to develop core mental health quality standards and specifications for mental health services, setting out clear expectations for what services will look like as they provide high-quality care. The aims are as follows:

  • To let individuals, their families and carers know what they can expect from a mental health service.
  • To ensure that person-centred and trauma-informed approaches are embedded within the services.
  • To improve experiences and outcomes for people who use mental health services.
  • To ensure a consistent high quality of service is provided to everyone who needs it.
  • To reduce the scope of unwarranted variation of quality of care.
  • To support improvement in and enable measurement of quality in service provision.

These standards, informed by the principles set out in the Strategy, clarify what support should look like for people accessing mental health services.

Mental health services can help us with both our mental and physical health. Factors in our lives such as our home circumstances; work; education; friendships; our physical health; genetics; financial situation; and community connections can all impact our mental health. Many of us have also been affected by personal traumas, or wider whole population events such as the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. In recent years, this has led people across Scotland to have more understanding about the importance of mental health, as well physical health.

We all have a range of mental health needs. Mental health services can make a real difference to the people of Scotland’s mental and physical health. These standards set out how access to and the quality of mental health services can be improved, and what the people of Scotland can expect. The standards also describe that providing good trauma informed early intervention can help many of us with our mental health.

Each year there are thousands of mental health referrals to services in Scotland. Due to factors, such as demand for services and staffing levels, we know that across Scotland people have different experiences when accessing mental health services. We also know that people most disadvantaged in our society, due to social, environmental, societal, or political factors, often experience more difficulties with their mental and physical health and can find it more difficult to access to the most appropriate support.

We want people in Scotland, regardless of their background or circumstances, to be able to access the right support at the right time when they struggle with their mental or physical health. Mental health services should be available to help improve quality of life. We also want people to have the tools and support to access more self-accessed digital services, as well as face to face support, in-person or virtually. We want Scotland to be a world leader in using innovative and evidence-based approaches to help promote good mental health for the whole population, prevent mental health difficulties from getting worse, and provide psychological treatments when people need them.

In publishing these standards, we acknowledge that the workforce plays a critical part in how we provide safe, effective, timely, trauma informed, and compassionate based service delivery. There has been improvement in workforce recruitment over the years, with record numbers of posts in mental health services. Despite this, the mental health and wellbeing workforce remain under significant pressure. Increased demand for support and services, rising levels of illness severity and ongoing high levels of staffing vacancies are having an impact on the workforce’s capacity to deliver care, treatment and support, and also on their own wellbeing.

We appreciate that implementing these ambitious standards within this context will be challenging for some services and parts of the workforce. The ability of services to implement the standards will be dependent on capacity within their teams and the pressures they face. To reflect this, we will take a phased approach to implementation and measurement. This will include a pilot that will test the feasibility of implementing the current set of standards which will inform any future refinements. Our ambition is that the standards will support services to improve the quality and safety of care, treatment and support they deliver. We will continue to work with key delivery partners through the Mental Health Standards Implementation Advisory Group to support implementation and establish a full roll-out timeline. Partnership working and collaboration will be central to the successful implementation. We want to continue to work with services, people who work in them as well as people with lived and living experience of using services, to ensure our approach to implementation is as supportive as possible.

We want these standards to serve as an innovative national guide of what high quality mental health care and support looks like, so you know what to expect, and how services should deliver this to meet local needs.



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