Half of new mental health posts unfilled
Less than half of the promised posts aimed at boosting mental health and suicide prevention services last year are in place, new figures show.
Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch recently pledged all 414 staff due to be hired in 2012 would be in place by the end of this month.
However, latest figures show just 193 have been hired to date.
In a statement, the Health Service Executive said the remainder were in the “latter stages of the recruitment process”.
The delays in recruitment come at a time of rising demand for mental health services in the community and rising concern over youth suicide.
Last week a report found that the rate of suicide among young people in Ireland was one of the highest in Europe.
Under plans announced a year ago, €35 million was to be invested in hiring professionals for understaffed community mental health teams and early-intervention services for people at risk of suicide.
Ms Lynch has insisted all of these staff will be hired in 2013.
She has pledged a further 477 staff will be hired as part of a separate fund of €35 million that has been ring-fenced for mental health this year. These staff will be also used to fill gaps in community mental health teams, as well as improving psychiatric services for children, older people and people with intellectual disabilities.
The increased focus on mental health services recently coincides with the seventh anniversary of the publication of the State’s policy on mental health services, A Vision for Change.
It emerged last week that an independent expert group that monitors the Government’s implementation of the policy has not been replaced.
Under the policy, the group’s role was to be formally reviewed after seven years and the independent body was due to issue a final report.
A replacement group has not been appointed and there are no plans for a final report, according to members of the expert group.
A spokeswoman for Ms Lynch said the priority was to review the Mental Health Act, 2001, after which it will consider establishing independent monitoring arrangements.
“In the interim, the HSE continues to implement A Vision for Change, with substantial additional funding provided in 2013, and reports on this on a monthly basis, through the HSE national service plan,” she said,
Despite the funding pressures facing the mental health sector, a major survey has found a large majority of service users were happy with the standard of service they received.
A study based on more than 1,500 people’s experiences with the services last year found some 76 per cent were happy overall. This compares with 57 per cent in 2010 and 52 per cent in 2009.
The study by the National Service Users Executive showed that most patients felt there was a change in staff attitudes, and half said they felt involved in care planning.
But there was also frustration with some aspects. For example, there was disappointment with the high turnover rates of doctors, consultation times being too short and infrequent and poor co-operation between professionals.
Many complained they were not being listened to. A substantial number felt they were provided with only partial information on their medication.