Camhs to be independently reviewed following Kerry report

Recent revelations show ‘catastrophic failure of oversight, supervision and accountability’

An independent review of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (Camhs) will be carried out across the State following revelations that children who attended the service in south Kerry were exposed to significant harm.

The inspector of mental health services Dr Susan Finnerty will conduct the review, the Mental Health Commission (MHC) has confirmed.

It comes after a Health Service Executive (HSE) report examined the treatment of more than 1,300 young people over a four-year period and found that 227 children, whose cases were managed by a junior doctor, were exposed to a serious risk of harm by way of sedation, emotional and cognitive blunting, growth disturbance and serious weight changes.

It found “clear evidence” of significant harm being caused to 46 children.

The commission has described the findings as “a catastrophic failure of oversight, supervision and accountability”.

Gardaí are considering whether to begin a criminal investigation into the revelations.

The board of the MHC has written to Minister of State for Mental Health Mary Butler stating that the circumstances outlined in the HSE's report represented "a catastrophic failure of oversight, supervision and accountability underpinned by failings of governance at local, regional and national level".

It said that “although the onus for change and improvement lies with those managing and working in services, independent oversight of the report from here forward is both appropriate and necessary to ensure that all the recommendations are fully and effectively implemented”.

What had transpired in the Cork Kerry Community Mental Health Services, regarding the Camhs service, "strongly supports the recommendation that the MHC be given full regulatory powers over all areas of mental health services in Ireland to include those relating to community mental health services," it said.

It informed the Minister that Dr Finnerty, inspector of mental health services, would be conducting an independent review of the provision of Camhs and would assess to “whether there had been improvements in Camhs provision since a similar review in 2017”.

Her report and recommendations will be published by the MHC.

"This level of harm must be the catalyst for change," said MHC chief executive John Farrelly. "This change will require clear, planned and decisive measures to be taken to reform our mental health service.

“The time for reform of Ireland’s mental health services is now and it should begin with the reinstatement of a national director for mental health in the HSE,” he said.

The MHC is an independent statutory body whose primary function is to foster and promote high standards of care and good practice in the delivery of mental health services and to ensure that the interests of those involuntarily admitted are protected.