1,700 wait over a year for child psych care

Thousands of children are on waiting lists for key psychological appointments, with more than 1,700 children already delayed by more than a year.

1,700 wait over a year for child psych care

Fresh figures also show some parts of the country are worse hit when it comes to the number of children waiting months or years for an appointment, and the contracting smaller number of adults awaiting psychological appointments.

The figures, provided by the HSE to Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher, show 5,954 children aged 17 and under were awaiting a psychology appointment in primary care, at the end of June.

Among those, 1,784 were waiting more than a year for an appointment.

Overall, there was 844 children aged between newborn and four years awaiting an appointment, including 132 waiting more than a year, while among those aged five to 17, some 717 were waiting more than half a year, 396 were waiting for more than 39 weeks and 1,652 were on the list more than a year.

By contrast, there were 1,816 people aged between 18 and 64 waiting various lengths of time for appointments.

Children in Cork and Kerry, it emerged, were more likely to be waiting longer for an appointment. The CHO4 health area covering those two counties showed 124 children aged four and under awaiting an appointment and 997 children aged between five and 17 on waiting lists — almost half of whom were waiting more than a year.

Galway/Mayo/Roscommon and Carlow-Kilkenny/South Tipperary/Waterford/Wexford also fared poorly in terms of high numbers of children awaiting an appointment.

Shari McDaid, the director of Mental Health Reform, said an increase in the number of mental health workers in primary care was vital.

“They were promised in the 2016 budget and, in 2017, the HSE received approval to hire over 100 assistant psychologists for primary care, but has yet to begin advertising the posts, to our knowledge,” said Dr McDaid.

“The figures on children waiting for psychology in primary care show that the HSE needs to recruit primary care psychologists as a matter of urgency.

“Enhancing primary care psychology services is a vital step to reducing child and adolescent mental health service waiting lists and also important to providing early intervention that would prevent mental health difficulties from escalating. Building a strong primary care mental health service will make the whole healthcare system work better.”

Labour Party spokeswoman on mental health, Kathleen Lynch, said more needed to be done to tackle the waiting times faced by children and families.

“With the shortage of supply of clinical psychologists, the HSE needs to be more proactive in not only recruiting but also in producing clinical psychologists,” she said.

Ms Lynch said the Doctor of Clinical Psychology programme in University College Cork could be replicated across other third-level institutions to help tackle the shortage of clinical psychologists.

“The HSE also needs to seriously consider using the services of counselling psychologists to help alleviate pressures on waiting lists,” Ms Lynch added.

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