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File photo of a teenage boy at a therapy session.
File photo of a teenage boy at a therapy session.
Image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

'Walking into a crisis': 61 psychiatrist posts are vacant around the country

Cork and Kerry are worst impacted.
Nov 26th 2018, 6:15 AM 28,830 17

THERE ARE 61 consultant psychiatrist posts vacant around the country, according to new figures.

The posts cover a number of specialities such as child and adolescent psychiatry, psychiatry of learning disability and psychiatry of old age, as well as general psychiatry.

The area of the country worst affected is CHO 4, covering Cork and Kerry, which accounts for 13 of the vacancies.

The numbers were released to Fianna Fáil’s mental health spokesperson James Browne in response to a parliamentary question.

“When we consider these vacancies we should also bear in mind that Ireland has six consultant psychiatrists per 100,000 of population, just half the EU average, and yet we are struggling simply to maintain an already low base,” Browne said.

He noted there have been high vacancy rates for a number of years, citing the impact of a 2012 pay cut for consultants.

“Of the 44 consultant psychiatrist posts advertised in 2015 and 2016, almost a quarter had no applicants, while 30% had only one applicant…

Unless the high vacancy rate is tackled, the government is walking the health service into a series of crises, worse than what is already being experienced.

When questioned about mental health services in the Dáil last week, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said an additional €84 million will be provided for services in 2019, which will bring the total available to €1 billion.

He acknowledged that funding is not the only issue, saying there is a difficulty “not only in recruitment but also in retention”.

“That applies across the health system but particularly in the mental health service. Every effort is being made by the HSE to address the issue,” Flanagan said.

CAMHS

Conditions treated in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) include moderate to severe depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm.

As of August, 2,403 people under the age of 18 were on the national waiting list.

There are three types of CAMHS referral: urgent, emergency and routine. A HSE spokesperson previously told TheJournal.ie: “Every effort is made to prioritise urgent referrals so that young people with high risk presentations are seen as soon as possible and this can often be with 24- 48 hours.

This may impact on wait times for cases that are considered, by a clinician, to be less severe. The CAMHS referral teams meet every week to review all referrals and to assess the risk to the young person.

The spokesperson added that, as of August, 80% of referrals accepted by child and adolescent teams nationally were offered an appointment within 12 weeks. However, delays occur due to a number of issues, such as high demand on services and recruitment difficulties.

A number of initiatives are under way in a bid to tackle this – including 10 new posts for Advanced Nurse Practitioners, an additional 20 beds planned for the new children’s hospital and an additional 10 forensic beds in the National Forensic Mental Health Service.

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Órla Ryan

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