GPs call for 24/7 psychiatric services

Community psychiatric services need to be available 24/7 to address the country’s high suicide rate, general practitioners urged yesterday at their annual conference in Limerick.

The conference backed a call for urgent improvement in out-of-hours community psychiatric services for patients in crisis.

Emmet Kerin told the National Association of General Practitioners’ conference: “The Department of Health and the HSE have done some tremendous work in terms of raising awareness of suicide and educating the public around suicide prevention.”

However, he said, when a patient experiences a crisis out of hours and comes to a GP for help, they have limited options available to assist.

The Limerick-based GP said: “All we can do is recommend that they go to the emergency department but not everyone wants that option.

“If they choose not to, we are left helpless and it falls on their family members to safeguard their loved one.”

Dr Kerin said alternatives urgently need to be put in place to address this situation. “Community psychiatric services need to be available 24-7, with direct GP access, to provide essential support and treatment for patients who are at risk to themselves. This is a significant patient safety issue.”

President of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Fine Gael TD Dan Neville, welcomed the call for better services. He said: “The GP in the frontline is more often than not the first professional to come in contact with the person in crisis.

“However, the GP can often find themselves in a position where they have nowhere to turn in getting a patient into the immediate care that is often required.

“What can the GP do when called to deal with a person in crisis out of hours? Their conference call for wider availability of community services must be addressed as a matter of urgency by the HSE.”


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