Less than one in 10 of promised mental health staff recruited

Posts approved last year have seen just 21 of 240 positions in mental health services filled

A widespread shortage of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and other mental health professionals has been blamed for the lack of appointments Photograph: iStock

A widespread shortage of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and other mental health professionals has been blamed for the lack of appointments Photograph: iStock

 

Less than one in 10 of the mental health posts approved last year have been filled, it has emerged.

Just 21 of the 240 staff promised from a €15 million allocation for mental health in 2017 have been recruited, according to the Health Service Executive.

As for mental health posts approved in 2016, just 209 out of 308 positions – 68 per cent – had been filled by June 2018.

And of the 377 posts promised in 2015, just 193 had been filled by June 2018, three years later, the HSE has said in answer to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil mental health spokesman James Browne.

The failure to fill posts over recent years has been blamed on a widespread shortage of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and other mental health professionals. The Department of Health says the health service has advertised widely to fill vacancies, but staff shortages remain.

Mr Browne pointed out that, currently, there are long waiting lists across various mental health services, from child services to psychology appointments in primary care.

“Despite these lengthy waiting times and the fact some €15 million in funding was announced last year to support recruitment, less than one in ten positions have been filled.

“It may seem cynical but I’m not remotely surprised that this is the case considering the figures for previous years.”

New report

Last week the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care published a report which included a recommendation for the introduction of special allowances for psychiatric nurses.

Mr Browne said Minister for Health Simon Harris needed to give serious consideration to this proposal. “Otherwise we will continue to fall short in recruiting much needed mental health staff.”

Last month in Budget 2019, €1 billion in mental health funding was announced, including €55 million in new development funding. The details of how this money will be spent next year will be set out in the HSE service plan to be published later this year.