Health group concerned at delays

 

Campaign group Mental Health Reform says it is concerned by the “slow progress to date” in staffing community-based mental health care teams.

This follows reports that the HSE was delaying the recruitment of more than 400 personnel for local psychiatric services because of budget overruns elsewhere in the system.

The roll-out of multidisciplinary community-based teams, to be staffed by psychiatrists, therapists and social workers is a key plank of the Government’s 10-year strategy to reform the system.

Mental Health Reform director Orla Barry said the group was concerned that funding for was being diverted away from community teams to meet budget overruns within the inpatient mental health services.

“It is imperative that the community mental health teams are staffed with a basic level of staffing, and are the linchpin of a modern mental health service.”

“To achieve this, we must develop our community teams, which are more cost effective than inpatient services.”

“We now call on the Government and the HSE to make a clear statement as to the status of staffing for community mental health teams, and to give a guarantee that staff will be ring-fenced for community mental health and in place by the end of the year,” Ms Barry said.

Of the €35 million earmarked for community-based mental health services in the last budget, €24 million was committed to fund the employment of multidisciplinary staff, such as occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers.

The Minister of State responsible for mental health, Kathleen Lynch, yesterday also expressed concern at the delay in filling posts for community-based services, and gave an undertaking that the positions would be filled by the end of the year.

The State’s A Vision for Change document, published in 2006, outlines a 10-year strategy to shift care from antiquated institutions to multidisciplinary community-based centres.

Last month, the Cabinet approved the heads of a Bill establishing a new structure for the HSE which will include a new directorate of mental health for the first time.