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'This is not acceptable': Nearly 2,000 new staff needed in mental health services

The figures were released to Fianna Fáil’s James Browne, after a parliamentary question to the Minister for Health.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

NEARLY 2,000 NEW staff need to be recruited if the government is to provide the level of care it envisages for mental health services, according to new figures released to Fianna Fáil TD James Browne.

The 2006 document A Vision for Change set out a new approach to mental health care in Ireland but now, 11 years on, staffing levels falling below what was set out is “not acceptable”, the Wexford TD said.

Browne had asked Minister for Health Simon Harris for details on staffing requirements in mental health services, and Harris referred his query to the HSE.

In its reply, the HSE said that A Vision for Change “remains the roadmap to guide the development of mental health services” in Ireland.

The HSE said that current staffing levels, including planned recruitment and commitments in the Programme for Government, total 10,815.

Under A Vision for Change, however, this staffing level would be 12,778 full-time workers.

This means that there are currently 1,963 full-time posts that would need to be filled for the HSE to provide the level of care the government has planned for mental health services.

hse foi Source: HSE

Browne had also asked for a breakdown of the number of additional mental health staff that have been recruited to date in 2017.

To date, 353 posts have been filled this year. This is through both a combination of replacement and development posts. In reality, 93 of the positions filled this year were new roles.

hse foi 2 Source: HSE

The Wexford TD said: “When launched in 2006, A Vision for Change marked a radical break from the previous approach to mental health care.

At its heart is a recovery-based model, which promotes a partnership approach and one centred on the person’s capacity to lead a fulfilling life.

“I am seriously concerned with the slow pace at which the HSE is recruiting. Just 93 new posts have been filled so far in 2017.”

There was initial confusion over the mental health budget this year, after statements made in the Dáil led to the government being accused of a u-turn on the mental health budget.

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This FactCheck from TheJournal.ie found that although the government did not cut the mental health budget, additional spending in this area was lower than expected.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a HSE spokesperson said: “The recruitment of specialist staff in mental health services is a recognised ongoing challenge with particular difficulties experienced in recent years in respect of nursing and medical staff.

The HSE however is making every effort to recruit staff nationally and internationally. In recognition of the lack of nurses available for recruitment, the Mental Health Division is funding an additional 70 undergraduate nursing places this year and is targeting those graduating in September to offer them positions where appropriate.

The spokesperson said that much of the focus now in mental health is on “facilitating and supporting earlier interventions at community and local level”.

“On that basis,” they said, “we are investing in new models of care and increasing funding to organisations such as Jigsaw”.

These funding commitments do not require the direct recruitment of additional staff, the spokesperson added.

Read: Children with potential mental health issues have been waiting over a year for a psychologist

Read: Online counselling service helps Irish in Canada and Australia deal with depression and loneliness

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Sean Murray

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