Children and psychiatric care


A chara, – The Irish Times reported on May 13th that a child with anorexia nervosa has been in a general hospital for more than nine weeks as there is no specialist eating disorder bed available in a paediatric psychiatric hospital.

Unfortunately this is not in any way atypical.

The reality is that the only emergency services for children with psychiatric illness, including eating disorders, autism, disabilities, behavioural difficulties, psychological and child protection problems, are those of general paediatric hospitals.

As we speak there has been an up to 45 per cent increase in the number of patients admitted to paediatric hospitals in the past year, many because the services supposed to treat them in the community are not doing so.

They are being treated with dignity and professionalism by paediatric clinicians who have no expertise in the conditions outlined above.

In Dublin paediatric hospitals, in particular, patients get the only emergency medical psychiatric treatment available in this State from the scandalously underfunded liaison psychiatry services according to clinical need and with no waiting lists.

The logic is not hard to follow.

General hospitals assess and treat all patients 24 hours a day according to clinical need. They provide beds for children if needed with no palaver as to whether they fit “criteria” for admission or not.

It’s where the majority of treatment is happening anyway (although not officially recognised or recorded).

So let’s stop the bunkum. Resource the paediatric hospitals properly to provide all healthcare to children. Designate them as “approved centres ” under mental health. And let’s get on with it.

Our children have been waiting too long. – Is mise,


Consultant Paediatric

Liaison Psychiatrist,

Ros Mhic Thriúin,

Co Chill Chennaigh.