HSE West planning for €10m in cuts to mental health funds


PROVISIONAL PLANS have been drawn up by the HSE West to cope with a cut of €10 million in its funding for mental health services next year.

While the region, which runs from Donegal to Limerick, is not yet sure precisely how much its budget will be slashed by, it is planning on the basis that its mental health funding will be down at least 5 per cent.

One image contained in its contingency plan suggests the cuts will effectively bring an end to any hope of implementing the Government’s blueprint for modernising mental health services in line with its A Vision for Changedocument.

A butterfly appeared on the cover of that Government document and in the HSE West’s provisional cost-cutting plan for mental health services in 2011 the butterfly is to be trampled upon.

Labour Senator Phil Prendergast, who saw the cost-cutting plan, said she was taken aback that it “features the incredibly callous image of a butterfly being crushed beneath a shoe”.

The plan, she said, set out how services could be run if €9.8 million was cut. The options include a ban on overtime, discontinuing locum cover for consultants, transferring the running of some medium and low-support accommodation services to “external partners”, the disbandment of specialised teams for treating those with severe, enduring mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, and closing acute inpatient beds.

“This is a nonsense, considering plans to finance new community units from the sale of State lands have fallen apart due to the collapse in property prices and given the increase of around 25 per cent in suicide rates last year putting extra pressure on acute inpatient beds and very limited outreach services,” Ms Prendergast said.

“If this plan is put in place, it may prove to be the most misguided social policy decision this Government has ever taken.”

The HSE stressed last night that the Government had not yet confirmed what its overall budget for 2011 will be.

Ms Prendergast urged the Minister for Health Mary Harney to put a stop to any plans to cut mental health funding.