Mental health staff numbers fall 3,500 short, say representatives

Just 63 more employed since 2011 despite €90m in extra funding, claims Mental Health Reform

Senator Jillian van Turnhout said awareness was being raised about mental health services but when people went to use them, they were often not available.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout said awareness was being raised about mental health services but when people went to use them, they were often not available.

 

Almost 1,000 fewer staff are providing mental health services compared to the start of the recession in 2008, despite Government announcements about increased funding, the Oireachtas health committee has been told.

Just 63 more staff are working in mental health services compared to 2011, despite the appointment of an additional 727 staff since the Government took office, Dr Shari McDaid, director of Mental Health Reform told the committee. This was due to a failure to retain staff.

Despite some positive developments, the figures showed the huge losses in mental health staff incurred during the early part of the recession have yet to be made up, she said.

Her group, an umbrella for 48 organisations working in the area, has estimated 12,482 staff are needed to provide services in mental health, compared to the actual level of under 9,000.

Dr McDaid said it was positive a mental health director was now involved at the top table of the Health Service Executive and that €90 million in funding had been ring-fenced for the sector. However, most of this was spent on replacing staff who had left.

The net increase in staffing was “quite marginal” and the service was in danger of moving “backwards, not forwards”. In many parts of the country, 24/7 crisis intervention or home service was not available as promised, and up to one-third of admissions of children were to adult wards.

The number of homeless people admitted to inpatient mental health units rose 40 per cent last year, she said. It was “quite shocking” that, despite the push towards providing services in a community setting, some people could end up spending longer in an institution because no housing for them is available.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout said awareness was being raised about mental health services but when people went to use them, they were often not available.