New figures show that 650 children were on a waiting list for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Cork alone at the end of 2018, including 113 children who had been waiting for more than a year.
The figures were provided by the HSE to Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath in response to a parliamentary question.
Waiting times for CAMHS have come under repeated scrutiny, with the numbers in parts of Cork consistently more acute than in most of the country, in recent years.
Sinéad Glennon, head of Mental Health Services Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, had advised the situation in some areas in Cork was exacerbated by staff shortages.
She said Cork North Central is currently without a consultant in situ: “This had a significant impact on waiting lists for this team (accounting for over 235 of the total Cork waiting list). Strenuous efforts are being made to fill this vacancy in Cork, including repeated advertising of the position and the use of recruitment agencies both nationally and internationally.
“Despite these ongoing efforts, recruitment is proving extremely difficult as there is a shortage of consultants across Europe. These efforts have also included seeking locum cover. In addition, partnerships with private providers have been explored but these providers are also experiencing recruitment difficulties.”
Interviews are scheduled this month to permanently fill the post, while the HSE said efforts continuing since Septemberner 2017, under the CAMHS Enhancement Project, had seen “considerable improvements in efficiency”.
“Analysis of young people seen by each clinical member for the CAMHS Teams in Cork and Kerry shows increased directed contact by 63% since 2017,” Ms Glennon said.
“Work to date with these teams has resulted in a 50% reduction in waiting list numbers across Cork Kerry Community Healthcare in October 2018 in comparison to October 2017 shortly after the CAMHS Enhancement Project commenced. This is against a backdrop of an overall 10% increase in referral rate.”
However, Mr McGrath said: “CAMHS is heading for a major crisis unless urgent action is taken.”