HSE defends jobs stance

The HSE has defended its efforts to recruit staff in mental health care following criticisms that it was too accepting of chronic vacancies and shortages in the sector.

The Oireachtas committee on the future of mental health care published a damning report this week, detailing significant failings in services, including the lack of staff in key positions.

It found that 700 new posts were unfilled while, at any given time, the HSE was struggling to replace personnel in 600 existing posts. 

Some regional services had fewer than half the number of staff they were meant to have and across the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), only 56% of roles were filled.

The HSE said it had trouble competing with overseas recruiters.

“Medical staff, including psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians, can avail of international work opportunities where terms and conditions are most attractive to their circumstances,” it said.

Of all posts advertised in the last two years, half have been unfilled due to lack of applicants or lack of appropriate qualifications for posts which require more specialist qualifications, eg, CAMHs and MHID (mental health of intellectual disability), or because candidates refuse the post or withdraw from the recruitment process.

The committee’s report acknowledged the favourable terms and conditions abroad but said there were other factors the HSE was not addressing, such as the policy of recruiting to panels with prospective employees not told where they might end up working, at what point they might get a contract, or who they would be working with.

The HSE also took issue with the committee’s criticisms of the way spending was recorded, with the HSE unable to give a breakdown of how much was spent in each speciality, service, or unit within mental health.

It said: “The HSE has provided significant detail on expenditure and budgets across the nine community health organisations and nationally within the financial structures and systems available and has at all times endeavoured to facilitate the committee and to provide transparent evidence to the best of our ability.”

The committee’s report was published on the same day as failings in mental health care for children and young people was graphically illustrated in a special RTÉ investigation.

The ‘Young and Troubled’ programme focused on the struggles faced by five families to get help for their children in the midst of mental health crises.

RTÉ said the programme, which was followed by a studio discussion, was watched by 250,000 viewers live, with figures not yet gathered for those who viewed it on catch-up, player, or online.

“For a programme that ran to almost two hours and that was a tough watch, we’re very pleased with the audience,” a spokeswoman said.

“We don’t do these kinds of specials for the viewing numbers but we’re delighted with the reaction this got.”

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