Statements & Blogs

6 Jul - IMO Statement to Seanad Committee - Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services by IMO

  • Mental Health Services for children and adolescents failing young people and their families

  • Doctors forced to work hours far above legal limits due to severe understaffing

  • Children being inappropriately referred to psychiatric units due to lack of suitable referral pathways

Mental health services for children and adolescents in Ireland are falling far short of what is needed, and are failing young people and their families the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said in a submission to the Seanad Public Consultation Committee on Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Addressing the committee today Dr. Matthew Sadlier, Consultant Psychiatrist, Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, North Dublin representing the IMO said, chronic underfunding, lack of facilities, understaffing and limited referral pathways for doctors means “we have neither the capacity, staffing or specialist services in place to adequately respond to children seeking assistance.”

  • Funding for mental health services makes up just 6.1% of the HSE’s total operational budget. In 2006, A Vision for Change, the framework document for the future of mental health in Ireland, stated 8.24% of total health fund spending should be directed to mental health services.
  • Just 67 child and adolescent mental health teams are in existence out of the 95 recommended in A Vision for Change, based on current population.
  • Just 66 Child and Mental Health Service inpatient beds are in place. A Vision for Change recommended 100 beds were required “as a matter of urgency”.

The Committee heard that doctors are forced to work hours far and above legal limits due to severe understaffing. Referring to a particular 24 hour on-call mental health service provided in North Cork, Dr. Sadlier said three non-consultant hospital doctors had been forced to each provide 70 hours of on-call cover per week on top of their normal 39 hours weekly work provided by each doctor.

68 children were admitted to adult psychiatric units in 2016, representing approximately 18% of all child admissions. GPs are forced to refer to acute hospital settings when a patient’s illness reaches a certain level of severity as there are no established, relevant and property resourced referral pathways for GPs to access on behalf of young patients.

Dr. Sadlier said, “In many ways mental health awareness has never had a higher profile, with many prominent public figures acknowledging their own struggles with mental illness and, encouraging others to seek help. Sadly, however, while as a society we may encourage our young people to access the help they need, the reality is that at the end of March this year, 51% of referrals to Children and Adult Mental Health Services were waiting over three months for an appointment. This is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.”

The IMO called on the Committee to recognise the severity of the situation and recommend immediate remedial action to Government to address the situation.