independent

Wednesday 26 September 2018

More than 200 Wexford children waiting over a year to see psychologist

Deputy Roisin Shortall
Deputy Roisin Shortall
Deputy James Browne

David Tucker

More than 200 children below the age of 18 have been waiting more than a year for an appointment with a psychologist in County Wexford.

The distressingly large figure for the county - almost 10 per cent of the national figure - is one of the largest for a single county.

The alarming figures, released by Social Democrat Deputy Roisin Shortall, show that 2,500 children are waiting for appointments with psychologists.

Wexford is included in an HSE area which also takes in Carlow/Kilkenny, South Tipperary and Waterford, which shows that 281 children were waiting for appointments, 209 of them in Wexford alone.

'That almost 2,500 vulnerable people could be left waiting over a year for such a basic service is nothing short of a scandal,' Shortall said.

The HSE figures show that of this number, 1,895 are children aged between five and 17. There are 130 children aged between zero and four waiting over a year for an appointment.

By contrast with the figures for Wexford, in area six, which includes Dublin south east, Dun Laoghaire and Wicklow, there are just four people in this age group waiting over a year for an appointment, the lowest across the country.

The HSE said that it is currently recruiting 20 additional psychologists and 114 assistant psychologists post for primary care in 2018.

Meanwhile, Deputy James Browne said children being turned away from mental health services because of staff shortages.

There are currently only 55 staff working in the service, despite a recommendation that 116 be employed.

Deputy Browne made the comments after obtaining new information from the HSE which shows that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are understaffed right across the country, with an additional 460 staff needed to meet the criteria set out in the government's own 'Vision for Change' mental health policy.

'I am growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress being made in improving mental health services for children in the South East. The situation appears to be getting worse instead of better, said Deputy Browne. 'The staff who work in the CAMHS service are fantastic. They go above and beyond what is expected of them. The problem is the fact that they are working under extremely pressurised conditions.

'The service is under so much pressure that it is now a regular occurrence for young adolescents and children to be sent to Emergency Departments as they cannot access the mental health services. 'At the moment GPs are being forced to refer young people to the Emergency Department, which is a completely unsuitable environment for them. In many cases, they are sent back home, which causes additional stress,' he said.

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