A LEADING children’s charity, backed by former prime minister Gordon Brown, is being forced to hire its own mental health workers because of a chronic shortage of NHS services.

The move by The Cottage family centre comes as the Royal College of Psychiatrists(RCP) revealed that the number of consultant psychiatrists in Scotland has risen by just four over the past five years.

As Mr Brown spoke of the challenges facing the Kirkcaldy-based charity in Kirkcaldy, he warned the NHS was “facing one of its worst-ever crises”. Kirkcaldy has an acute shortage of doctors and nurses and has recently seen a GP practice with a list of 1600 patients close down, while neighbouring GP lists are being closed to new patients.

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Volunteers and staff at The Cottage, who have raised £100,000 this year, now need another £100,000 to meet rapidly-expanding demand from troubled children, teenagers and young parents, by emloying counselling staff and a new family therapeutic worker.

The NHS in Fife currently has a nine-month waiting list for mental health appointments. Similar delays are being experienced in other parts of the country.

Mr Brown, who will today be named as Honorary Patron of the Centre, said: “NHS crises should have been a thing of the past. Of course the Scottish Government is free to spend as it sees fit but their decisions mean that far less is being invested in the NHS than the Barnett formula ever intended,” he said. “In effect, it has left the NHS in Scotland hundreds of millions of pounds short of what it should have. The crisis in Fife mirrors what is happening across the entire country. There is now a full-blown mental health emergency.”

Pauline Buchan, Service Manager at The Cottage, said as a result of the funds raised a new project will provide training and mentoring for emotionally troubled adolescents who are experiencing difficulty attending and engaging with school and other social situations. “It is important to recognise the impact mental health can have on the family unit,” she added.

Cottage chairperson Marilyn Livingstone said every penny of the £100,000 raised would go to the most disadvantaged in society while a second project to be announced in October will support grandparents and care-givers.

In a report the RCP said that while the growth of consultant psychiatrists in Scotland has been less than 1%, the number of consultants to treat physical illnesses has risen by over a fifth.

A spokesman said: “it is essential that support for people with severe mental illness, requiring psychiatric led care, is given adequate attention.”

Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt said the government had overseen an increase of 22.6% in psychiatry roles in Scotland. “We are committed to investment of £150 million over five years in improving mental health, with additional funding reaching £35 million by 2022,” she said.