Patients in need of mental health services are being ‘more unwell’ due to long waiting times in Ireland, according to consultant campaigners.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association claims that 100 permanent psychiatric consultant posts across Ireland’s mental health services are currently either empty or only temporarily filled.
The lack of available psychiatrists to treat patients is restricting timely access to much needed services for patients, and resulting in patients becoming more unwell, needing more medications and requiring hospital admission, the IHCA has warned.
Recent HSE figures for the first three months of 2019 show that 2,498 children and 3,764 adults were waiting to access to mental health services, while one-in-four of all children and adults referred to these services are not seen within the recommended 12 weeks.
The latest figures for Donegal showed that, in October 2018, 240 children across the local region were waiting on an initial Mental Health Services assessments following GP referral.
Nine of those children had been on the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, or ‘CAMHS’, waiting list for over nine months while a further eight children have been waiting over a year to receive an appointment.
Dr Donal O’Hanlon, a psychiatrist and president of the IHCA, said:“The consultant crisis is severely impacting on the delivering of health services to many of our most vulnerable people. It is now the ‘new norm’ that many consultant psychiatrist posts advertised nationally either have no applicants or only one applicant”.
“This leads to two outcomes – these posts remain indefinitely empty or non-specialists are temporarily appointed to specialist psychiatry posts. Both are contrary to the delivery of safe and timely mental health services.”
Dr O’Hanlon has called on the Minister for Health to address the consultant crisis.
Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Selena Pillay also noted her first-hand experience of long waiting times for patients with mental health problems:
“They [patients] become more unwell, need more medications and they also require hospital admissions. This is not good for patients; we need to get them at an earlier stage of their illness.”