Sir, When the 2006 report on the mental health services "A Vision for Change" was published it was described as a framework for building and fostering positive mental health across the entire community and for providing accessible community based specialised services for people with mental illness
Seven years later this promise remains unfulfilled with A Vision for Change remaining an aspiration rather than a reality in Kerry and beyond. When A Vision for Change was published in 2006 the report recommended that a minimum spend of 8.5% of the national health budget should be allocated to the mental health services to enable the recommendations of the Report to be fully implemented.
In 2006, 6.5% of the total health budget was allocated to mental health services, rather than this figure increasing to 8.5% as recommended in AVFC spending on mental health services has in fact decreased over the past seven years and will end up at 5.2% of total health spending in 2013. This is only 66% of the recommended level of spending outline in A Vision for Change and less than half of the level of spending on mental health services in other OECD countries.
Under A Vision for Change the recommended and preferred way of delivering a comprehensive community mental health service was by way of a Community Mental Health Team. This is a multidisciplinary group of health professional who deliver a mental health service within a community setting and avoiding as far as possible recourse to inpatient hospital admissions.
Despite large scale institutional bed closures with the loss of 100 nursing posts from the service, Kerry does not as yet have a single fully staffed, resourced and functioning Community Mental Health Team in place, and with a population of 146,000 (in line with A Vision for Change) Kerry should have up to12 Community Mental Health Teams serving various population groups throughout the county.
In recent years €35m has been set aside to help develop and populate community mental health teams throughout the country. However, in many instances much of that money was not spent for this purpose but diverted to other areas of the health service. In 2014 the amount set aside for the development of CMHTs has been cut to €20m a reduction of 43%. What other area of health spending is facing a 43% reduction in allocation.?
So what must be done? Put very simply, the Mental Health Services must be taken seriously by Irish Society, Government and the HSE, and must be given the same priority, recognition and level of funding necessary as all other disciplines of the health service. The current and long standing second class status afforded mental health services must end, and must end now.
Last Saturday 20 members of the Psychiatric Nurses' Association put this case to delegates attending the Labour Party conference in Killarney and asked them to become advocates for the mental health services and help make A Vision for Change a reality for the people of Kerry and beyond. We asked them to highlight the lack of funding, staffing and resources allocated to achieve the implementation of a 24/7 comprehensive community mental health service in line with AVFC.
Overall we got a excellent reception from delegates and, hopefully, our appeal will have struck a chord and might eventually help improve the future funding of mental health services.
Cormac Williams, Branch Organiser,
Psychiatric Nurses' Association,
Kerry Mental Health Services.