Review of medication practice across Camhs to begin this week

HSE officials again apologised for the substandard care received by 240 children

A promised review of medication practice across all child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) is to get under way on Thursday with the first meeting of the oversight group.

A consultant psychiatrist, Dr Colette Halpin, has been appointed as independent chairwoman and the terms of the review have been designed, according to the Health Service Executive.

The review was a central recommendation of a report into 1,300 children who attended South Kerry Camhs, published in January, which found 46 suffered significant harm.

HSE officials speaking at the Oireachtas health committee on Wednesday again apologised for the substandard care received by 240 children, young people and their families.

HSE chief operating officer Anne O’Connor said its aim at all times was to provide children and young people and their families with a safe, effective service.

Ms O’Connor said the review group on medication practice would first look at a targeted sample of patients treated for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Involvement

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart said he would have preferred if the review were chaired by someone with no previous involvement in Camhs. Rather than focusing only on ADHD, the review should have examined prescribing practice across the spectrum of children's conditions, he argued.

Ms O’Connor said it was first necessary to establish common criteria for prescribing for a condition. If the review were broadened out, this process would take a lot longer. “Where we see any flags, we will look outside ADHD.”

A number of TDs asked officials to explain and to provide a graphical illustration of the chain of command that operated in South Kerry Camhs.

TDs Roisin Shortall and Neasa Hourigan both said they were confused by the explanations provided by officials and Ms Shortall said she didn't know who was "in charge of anything".

Michael Fitzgerald, chief officer for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, clarified that he has had overall responsibility for services provided in Cork and Kerry since 2020.

Senator Martin Conway described the arrangements as "breathtaking". "The structure was so over-managed that it effectively wasn't managed at all".

Sinn Féin David Cullinane asked Mr Fitzgerald whether he accepted there has been failings on his part and that "the buck stops with you".

Mr Fitzgerald said he accepted there had been a failure in clinical supervision and he also accepted the findings of the report published in January into the matter.

Asked who had asked the whistleblower that first revealed the shortcomings in care for children to take time off and had reassigned him to other duties, Mr Fitzgerald declined to comment.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times

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