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Mental health services have been 'bleeding' vital staff, report warns


Dr Shari McDaid

Dr Shari McDaid

Dr Shari McDaid

Services for patients suffering mental illness have been "bleeding" staff at a time when demands for care and treatment have risen, according to a new report.

The report by Mental Health Reform examined progress since the publication of A Vision for Change, the 2006 blueprint for future development of psychiatric services.

It said that 1,000 nurses' jobs were lost as part of the embargo on recruitment without planning for the older age profile of many of these staff.

"These staff losses have yet to be made up and despite the allocation of additional funding in recent years, as of January 2015 staffing levels were 11pc below those of 2008," it said.

The analysis said that while there have been pockets of innovation over the years, the implementation has been "incomplete and uneven".

Director of Mental Health Reform, Dr Shari McDaid said: "This report acknowledges the progress that has been made and the staff whose commitment has helped to bring about change so far.

"Despite this, there is no doubt that the mental health system envisaged in A Vision for Change has yet to be realised across the country, with negative consequences for the mental health and well-being of the population."

She said the shortage of staff is leading to rising waiting lists for young people with mental health difficulties who need to be seen by child and adolescent mental health teams.

The report highlighted how the waiting list in the child and adolescent mental health services had increased to 2,866 in January, a rise of 8pc over the same month in 2014.

A total of 429 children were waiting more than a year to be seen in the services.

Other areas which are still suffering from a lack of service include that of psychiatry for older people. There are 27 'psychiatry of old age' community mental health teams nationally but Vision for Change recommended there should be 46.

Around one in 10 people over the age of 50 has "clinically significant depressive symptoms". Yet there is a high level of under-diagnosis in this age group.

Dr McDaid said that "of particular concern is the lack of progress in long-neglected services such as mental health care for people with intellectual disability and for children and adolescents involved in the criminal justice system.

"These are particularly high risk groups which should be prioritised for mental health service development."

She pointed out that A Vision for Change highlighted that people who use mental health services and their families wanted to be listened to, to be treated with respect, to have a say in their own treatment.

"These qualities do not cost money and yet are not universally experienced across the country". She added: "Grinding poverty and the lack of secure housing and employment are not good for anyone's mental health, let alone those already in distress.

"Key to the future people's recovery is how well government departments work together and promote social inclusion and well-being."

Irish Independent