Friday 20 July 2018

TD 'infuriated' at €800k mental health shortfall

Deputy Louise O'Reilly.
Deputy Louise O'Reilly.

John Manning

At a time when mental health services for young people in Fingal are in crisis, the HSE has reported a staggering underspend in mental health services for the region of almost €800,000.

The underspend was revealed in an answer to a parliamentary question tabled by a party colleague of local Sinn Féin TD, Louise O'Reilly.

The district which includes Fingal and much of north Dublin had an underspend on its 2017 budget of some €787,142, the HSE figures reveal.

Criticising the underspend, Deputy O'Reilly said: 'Only last month the HSE informed me that child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in Fingal and North Dublin had barely half the necessary staff.

'It was reported from the HSE that the area had only 56.1% of the total staff needed. Therefore, it is even more infuriating that the HSE have now informed me that they have underspent on mental health services in CHO 9 which covers Fingal and north Dublin by €787,142 in 2017.'

Deputy O'Reilly said: 'The services available in Fingal and north Dublin are under huge pressure and waiting lists have spiralled out of control, yet the HSE and the Government can't put funding available to work.

'We have to ask why is Fingal and north Dublin constantly being left behind when it comes to the delivery of mental health services.'

The Sinn Féin TD added: 'Only recently, the Children's Rights Alliance revealed that nearly 7,000 children under the age of 17 were waiting for a community based psychology appointment at the end of last July - with one third of those waiting for more than a year.

'It is impossible for these children to get the help they need when'"A Vision for Change' recommends that youth mental health services be fully staffed at 1,047 whole time equivalent staff, yet as of December CAMHS teams had just 587 whole time equivalent doctors and nurses.'

She concluded: ' That this is happening at a time when we are more aware than ever of the complexities and difficulties for people, particularly the young, who suffer with their mental health makes the situation even more infuriating.'

The figures for Fingal and north Dublin are in sharp contrast to other health service regions in the country, some of which saw overspends of between €3 million and €6million.

Maurice Farnan GM Planning Performance and Programme Management in the Mental Health Division of the HSE said in his response to the parliamentary question on the issue that there was in fact, an upward trend in pressure on spending in mental health services.

Despite the figures showing an overall underspend across the country of almost €400,000, he said the figures 'masked' a €52 million deficit in the service's budget nationally.

He said: 'Mental health services have a number of challenges, namely a high level of agency and overtime spend due to an inability to recruit staff into available posts, also an increasing level of high cost capitation payments relating to residential placements with private providers.

'It should be noted that mental health services across the 9 CHO's have a €52m core deficit which is currently being masked by the time related savings from Programme for Government funding 2013-2017. This time related savings relates to funded Programme for Government posts for which mental health has received funding for but for which there are insufficient staff available to fill these posts . 

'As these posts get filled, elements of the €52m core deficit will begin to appear in the Mental Health results in the future.'

Fingal Independent