Mental health service cutbacks leading to suicides, nurses’ conference hears

Vulnerable patients are being discharged early or failing to secure a bed due to mental health service cutbacks, leading to suicide in some cases, the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association said yesterday.

At its annual conference yesterday, PNA chief executive Des Kavanagh warned that, due to the huge number of retirements among the profession, services were now “stretched to the limit”.

Mr Kavanagh said that on foot of the early retirement scheme introduced by the Government, psychiatric nurses were leaving “in droves”, with the result that services were curtailed or, in some cases, scrapped.

He said Co Roscommon was “in dire straits”, claiming that due to the retirement of a nurse specialist in family therapy, the service was dropped, while the retirement of two out of the four nurses who had been working in addiction services meant the service was halved.

He said there had been some recruitment in the greater Dublin area to cover retirements, but in west Dublin overtime was being used to cover shortfalls which ended up being more expensive in the long run.

He claimed Louth/Meath had the lowest number of psychiatric nurses per capita of any part of the country — half what was required under the terms of the Vision for Change programme — while services in Cork had been “hit badly”.

“They are replacing nurses in low support areas with porters, gardeners, anyone who can stand in,” he said.

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