HSE report details staff shortages in child mental health teams

HSE report details staff shortages in child mental health teams

The country’s child and adolescent community mental health teams have little more than half the staffing levels they should have, according to a HSE report.

While almost 80% of new staffing positions approved over the last seven years have been filled, just 32% posts approved in 2019 and only 17% of positions approved in 2018 have been filled by the start of this year.

The Delivering Specialist Mental Health Services 2019 report, published by the HSE Mental Health Division, said the shortages were happening in the context of an “increasing” prevalence of mental health disorders among young people.

It said:

• 74% of 26-year-olds with mental illness were found to have experienced mental illness prior to the age of 18 years and 50% prior to the age of 15 years in a large birth cohort study.

• Effective psychosocial and pharmacological treatments exist for many mental disorders in children and adolescents;

• The long-term consequences of untreated childhood disorders are costly, in both human and fiscal terms 

The 150-page document said that 25% of the population is under the age of 25 and that there was a total of 698 staff in Child and Adolescent Community Mental Health Teams.

“This represents 57.5% of the clinical staffing levels recommended in A Vision for Change which is an increase of 0.6% nationally on the 2018 position,” said the report.

A Vision for Change, published in 2006, is the landmark government policy document, which was added to last month by the Sharing the Vision document.

The Child and Adolescent teams are supposed to house a range of necessary skills, including a consultant psychiatrist, a doctor in training, two psychiatric nurses, two clinical psychologists, two social workers, one occupational therapist, one speech and language therapist and one child care worker.

The report said the teams have grown in number from 49 in 2008 to 71 in 2019. A Vision for Change recommended 79 teams.

The report said a study found that the prevalence rates of psychiatric disorders, suicidal ideation and intent and parasuicide among 12-15 year-olds was around 16%.

It said there were 13,190 referrals accepted by CAMHS in 2019 and 12,174 new cases were offered an appointment.

It said that once referrals are accepted, they are expected to be given an appointment within 12 weeks.

That target was met in around half of cases, but 9% (212 children) had to wait over a year and a further 9% had to wait between nine and 12 months.

It said Community Healthcare Organisation 4 (covering Cork and Kerry) had the longest waiting lists, with 23% (145 children) waiting over a year and a further 14% (89 children) waiting between nine and 12 months.

The report said there was significant investment in child and adolescent inpatient facilities, from 12 beds in 2007 to 72 by last December.

It said 358 children and adolescents were admitted in 2019 and, of these, 308 (86%) were admitted to child and adolescent inpatient units and 50 (14%) to adult approved centres.

The report details five specific Mental Health Clinical Programmes: self harm; psychosis; eating disorders, ADHD and Dual Diagnosis (mental health and drugs)

*HSE Mental Health Line 1800 111 888

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up