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Donnelly says recruitment of youth mental health director will bring 'consistency' to CAMHS

The Dáil is to discuss the findings on Thursday.

STEPHEN DONNELLY HAS defended his performance over criticism the State’s youth mental health teams, following a damning interim review of the service.

The health minister said the HSE is seeking to appoint a national clinical lead for youth mental health which will bring “consistency” to how the 73 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) teams across the State are regulated.

It follows a critical report into large sections of CAMHS by the Mental Health Commission which called for “urgent and targeted action” to be taken to address risks in the service.

Earlier this morning, The Journal reported on concerns by the MHC that there is a disparity by how CAMHS teams admit young people into their care. 

It found there was a “wide variation” with one region CAMHS team accepting over 80% of children. In another, only 30% of children were accepted.

Donnelly said this morning that there are “two very important new roles” are being put in place for CAMHS.

“One is an assistant national director role to make sure that exactly the kind of integration that the report calls for happens.

“And critically while we have an outstanding national clinical lead for mental health the HSE now also bringing in a national clinical lead for CAMHS, for youth mental health,” he told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio One.

The Wicklow TD said the role will bring a “national lens” to this look at governance and consistency across the 73 CAMHS teams.

It will also help make sure that that mental health supports and care are integrated into broader health care and social care, Donnelly added.

“One of the reasons there is so much pressure on the system right now is that since Covid, there’s been a 33% increase in referrals to youth mental health,” he said, adding that it has put the system under immense pressure.

When asked whether he would accept the MCH’s recommendation calling for the Mental Health Act to administer CAMHS, Donnelly said he and Minister of State for Mental Health Mary Butler were looking at that and “reflecting on the interim report”.

He suggested a final decision would be made following completion of the full report later this year.

Donnelly said the report also found that many young people and their families are receiving “excellent care and treatment” as approximately 20,000 young people are supported in the service.


SIPTU representatives have written today to Mary Butler, and the management of the HSE requesting an urgent meeting to discuss safe staffing levels in CAMHS.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John McCamley said that the report into CAMHS “notes that there is currently no benchmark in place for the safe staffing of child and adolescent mental health services”.

“The report also noted that low staff morale and burnout are issues and that some staff are working above their contracted hours, for no additional compensation, in order to provide therapeutic interventions.”  

He added: “SIPTU representatives have recently raised concerns about staffing in CAMHS, particularly in the Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation.”

“It’s clear that a focus now needs to be placed on establishing a safe staffing level for child and adolescent mental health services. In order to progress this issue we have written to the Minister of State and the HSE to seek an urgent meeting to discuss what must be done.”

Children’s charity Barnardos was also critical of CAMHS, stating today that the current service jeopardisesd the mental health of some of the most vulnerable people in the countyr.

The charity added: “A lack of adequate mental health can exacerbate their issues, further traumatise them, and lead to a deterioration of their health and wellbeing.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin spokesperson Mental Health, Mark Ward, has welcomed that the MHC report will be debated in the Dáil this Thursday.

The Dublin Midwest TD said he wrote to the Ceann Comhairle yesterday requesting time on the Dáil schedule this week.  

“The report published this week has shown that CAMHS is beyond crisis point.

“There is a huge disconnect between Ministers Donnelly and Butler and their Department of Health with the HSE.

“Where does this buck stop, who is ultimately accountable and responsible for the current crisis in children’s mental health services?,” the deputy said.

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