Child and adolescent mental health services audit to ‘reassure’ users

Review ordered after South Kerry revelations when report revealed ‘risky’ treatment

The purpose of an audit of child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) is to assure those using the system that it is safe, according to the Health Service Executive’s chief clinical officer.

The audit was ordered following revelations at South Kerry Camhs after a report found hundreds of children received "risky" treatment from a doctor and significant harm was caused to 46 of them.

The risks involved in the treatment by the junior doctor included sleepiness, dulled feelings, reducing mental alacrity, serious weight gain and distress.

In response, the HSE agreed to commission an independent review of medication practice across its Camhs teams, as well as an audit of compliance with operational guidelines and a qualitative study of service users.

The audit will examine prescribing practices and operational guidelines across all diagnoses, covering Camhs teams countrywide.

Dr Colm Henry said these mental health teams are "highly regulated" and take "care and consideration" when treating and prescribing for patients.

"What we want to do is make sure and get assurances for people currently attending or who may attend the services in the future, that all of these teams are complying with those standards we laid down in 2019 as to how these teams should operate, how they should accept patients and assess them," he told RTÉ Radio One's This week.

He added that the audit was needed to confirm that the “dreadful experience” in south Kerry isn’t replicated elsewhere.

“We need a full audit to ensure that happens and to give assurance to people that this service is safe. We expect that audit to take approximately six months, with a report by the end of the year.”

The Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association said events in south Kerry had cruelly exposed the consequences of the resourcing crisis afflicting the health service.

Recruitment problems

According to the association, 33 out of 114 permanent child and adolescent psychiatry posts at consultant level are unfilled in Camhs services countrywide.

Dr Henry said one of the problems confronting the HSE is “recruitment in certain, specific geographical areas”.

Last week, the Government opened a compensation scheme for the hundreds of children and families who suffered harm as a result of failings in mental healthcare in south Kerry, which is expected to cost tens of millions of euro.