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Top psychiatrist says he resigned from HSE due to 'mental health inaction'

Hillery said that the current system is nothing short of a “disgrace”.

Dr John Hillery
Dr John Hillery
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE PRESIDENT OF the College of Psychiatrists said he felt he had to resign from the HSE due to the executive’s inaction over mental health issues.

Dr John Hillery described the current system as “shambolic” and said that professionals are forced to work in places which are not fit for purpose.

Addressing the Family Carers Ireland conference this afternoon, Hillery said that the current system is nothing short of a “disgrace”.

“The fact that we are still discussing these issues as needs rather than as facts is a disgrace. It is one of the reasons I resigned my clinical post earlier this year after nearly 30 years in the mental health and intellectual disability services as a trainee and consultant,” he said.

Hillery, who is the son of former president Patrick Hillery, said the inability for change in systems and poor environments for staff were always a frustration for him during his tenure within the HSE but the bigger problem has always been a lack of staffing nationwide.

“Our health service has major staffing problems. No one seems to have connected the difficulties in recruitment and retention to the culture and environment of the main employer, the HSE.

Reports of snails on the walls of the clinic and no hope of improvement until a successful business case was made for environmental improvements seems to be bureaucracy gone mad.

Hillery said that he spent far too much time writing memos and making phone calls advocating for respite and other supports that should already be taken for granted.

He cited one example of the way young people with intellectual disability and challenging behaviour lose their respite once they leave school.

He added: It continues to amaze me that this was an issue when I was first a consultant and is still an issue today.

“Though government ministers regularly communicate their intention for reform in the mental health services the current situation leads me to question the intent. Our structures lack governance. The HSE has no board and an acting CEO. The main policy on mental health services A Vision for Change recommended a leader in this area but recently the last CEO absorbed the Mental Health Division into a bigger grouping thus removing the focus at the necessary high administrative level from mental health.”

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Concluding his speech to the conference, the respected psychiatrist said he wished that the Government would spend more time and money concentrating on our mental health service instead of the proposed travel upgrades around Dublin city centre.

“It may be that there is no money for these issues. However, if that is so why is there money for less important issues such as Metrolink.  We need transparent, simple governance of our health service as regards financing, planning and delivery. The multiple layers and cross responsibilities, a diagram of which resembles a Jackson Pollock painting, have to be reduced into a simple effective model with allocated decision making and accountability.”

The HSE has been contacted for comment.

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