More than 100 children under the age of 4 waiting a year to see psychologist

Fianna Fáil says figures should be ‘wake up call’ for Minister for Health

James Browne, Fianna Fail mental health spokesman,  obtained the figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) through a parliamentary question. Photograph: Eric Luke

James Browne, Fianna Fail mental health spokesman, obtained the figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) through a parliamentary question. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Minster for Health Simon Harris has been urged to “wake up” to the immense stress and anxiety suffered by thousands of children on waiting lists for a year and more to see a psychologist.

Latest official figures show 6,340 children were on a list for a primary care psychology appointment, as of the end of August. The figure is up from 6,181 children at the end of January.

A quarter of the children, 1,607, have been waiting more than a year to see a psychologist. Of those waiting more than a year for help with their mental health, 109 of them are under the age of four .

James Browne, Fianna Fail mental health spokesman, who obtained the figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) through a parliamentary question, said they should act as “a wake up call” for Mr Harris and his Cabinet colleagues.

“These lengthy waits are not only completely unacceptable from a medical point of view; they are causing immense stress and anxiety to the children and families trapped on the list,” he said.

“This data is yet another illustration of the persistent crisis in the provision of mental health services for children.”

Cork and Kerry — which includes Minister of State for Mental Health Jim Daly’s constituency — are the worst affected areas in the growing backlog. Some 527 children across the two counties have been waiting more than a year to be seen by a psychologist.

South east Dublin, Dun Laoghaire and Wicklow (where Mr Harris is based) have the most favourable waiting times in the country, according to the new figures. No child has been waiting for more than 39 weeks across the three areas.

After Cork and Kerry, the longest waiting times are in north Dublin, where 297 children are waiting more than a year.

In Galway, Roscommon and Mayo 239 children are waiting more than a year; as are 196 children in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary; and 133 children in South Tipperary, Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford.

There are 74 children on year-long waiting lists in Laois, Offaly, Longford, Westmeath, Louth and Meath; and 72 in Kildare, West Wicklow and south and west Dublin.

Some 69 children are waiting more than 12 months for an appointment with a psychologist in Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan.

“Early intervention is critical when dealing with susceptible children and teenagers. The government and the HSE have an obligation to do better by these children,” said Mr Browne.

“It is critical that sustained efforts are made to address these waiting lists.

“Such deficits in mental health services for children cannot be allowed to continue.”