MENTAL health patients who talked about suicide at NHS Tayside were reportedly told to “get a grip” and pull themselves together by staff, an independent inquiry has found.

A damning report into psychiatric services in the region also heard evidence of patients taking illegal drugs on wards.

Meanwhile, staff raised concerns about a culture of bullying, “the overuse of control and restraint”, and “categorically unsafe” services.

The inquiry was commissioned by NHS Tayside following widespread concerns over its mental health service raised in the Scottish Parliament.

It found failures of leadership and a breakdown of trust and respect between the staff, the board and patients.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said it laid bare the dire state of mental health services in the area.

He said: “The failings that this report has brought to light are systemic and demand a root and branch culture change.”

Mr Leonard previously highlighted the case of David Ramsay, 50, who took his own life in 2016 after he was twice rejected for treatment at the Carseview psychiatric unit at Ninewells in Dundee.

An interim report published last year highlighted illegal drugs on wards and suicidal patients who felt they were not taken seriously until they made a “serious attempt to take their own life”.

The full report, published today, states: “Patients who talked about suicide reported that they were told to ‘get a grip’, ‘pull yourself together’, ‘you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t harm yourself’, adding to the perception that staff blamed the patients for their situation, rather than recognising that they were seriously unwell.

“This was particularly true for patients who were suspected of using illegal drugs, who felt that staff treated them particularly poorly.”

The inquiry said the consumption of illegal drugs in wards was a consistent theme in the submitted evidence.

A snapshot of a month’s worth of incidents in one Carseview ward last year details patients caught with drugs and smoking cannabis.

Some patients reported feeling frightened and bullied by other patients, and witnessing fights between patients. Staff also expressed fear about the environment.

A number of staff members told the inquiry of concerns over what they perceived as the overuse of control and restraint.

They also reported feeling worried about the safety of patients amid declining staffing levels and a lack of available resources. The report added: “Medical staff stated that they have reported that in their opinion some services are categorically unsafe for patients, but their concerns were repeatedly ignored.”

On bullying, it noted: “In NHS Tayside’s mental health services, a culture of bullying was noted by some staff members who felt it originated at management level but was now being adopted across the whole service.”

A survey found 29 per cent of mental health staff considered they had either experienced or witnessed bullying within their working environment.

The inquiry said a shortage of consultant psychiatrists had undermined patients’ belief that NHS Tayside is able to deliver the treatment and care they require.

It said there is “a history of managers blaming clinicians and clinicians blaming managers”, as well as “problematic relationships” between NHS Tayside and councils and tensions with the Scottish Government.

However, the inquiry said it received evidence of excellent staff providing compassionate and professional care for patients, in what can be extremely challenging circumstances.

It said a “radical, new approach to restoring and building trust is urgently needed”, and makes 51 separate recommendations.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said patients, staff and families had been badly let down.

He added: “Ministers and health bosses must now begin the arduous task of rebuilding that precious trust.”

Inquiry chair Dr David Strang said the report’s title, Trust and Respect, reflects the fact “there has been a loss of trust in mental health services in Tayside”.

NHS Tayside chair Lorna Birse-Stewart welcomed the report and said its recommendations are “an opportunity to embrace a fresh approach to the design and delivery of mental health services across Tayside”.

She said: “More than 1500 people contributed to the inquiry and the voices we hear coming through very strongly in the report are giving us a deep insight into how people are truly connected to the services we provide.

“We thank each and every one of those 1500 people, some of whom feel they have not been fully listened to in the past, and I would like to give a commitment to them, on behalf of the board, to say we are listening to ensure we rebuild mental health services which earn the trust and respect of everyone.”

Mental health minister Clare Haughey said the inquiry had “highlighted several areas where NHS Tayside needs to take urgent action”.

She said Dr Strang has agreed to undertake a progress update in February 2021. She added: “The Scottish Government has already provided a package of support to NHS Tayside since Dr Strang’s initial report was published in May 2019. Last week I announced further support for NHS Tayside which will address service provision, clinical practice, organisational development and community led services.”

The NHS Tayside report came as the EIS teaching union warned more staff could leave the profession early if steps are not taken to protect their mental health.