Keaveney criticises Government’s ‘shameful’ record on mental health 

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on mental health, Colm Keaveney, has said the country’s services are at breaking point, suffering from a lack of frontline staff and starved of resources by the Government.

Deputy Keaveney was commenting after information released to him by the HSE revealed that staffing for the Mental Health Division is 2,900 below where it should be.

“Across the country our mental health services are stretched to the limit and more people are waiting longer for access to essential care,” he said. “The Government has left our mental health services short €70m and staff levels are dangerously below target. We are now close to 3,000 posts behind the principles set down in ‘A Vision for Change’.

“The HSE has informed me that of the 1,144 development posts for mental health from 2012 to 2014, 96 per cent of the 416 development posts for 2012 have started. Eighty-eight per cent of the 477 development posts for 2013 have started. Of the 251 posts allocated in 2014, 75 have been recruited of which 63 have started by May 31, and a further 78.5 are at various stages in the recruitment process.

“There are serious causes for concern here. The Government is still close to 100 posts short of the 2014 allocation. The HSE has also informed me that there are 332 replacement posts currently in the recruitment process. The simple fact of the matter is the Government is not moving quickly enough to ensure there are appropriate staffing levels for our frontline mental health services.

“The recruitment process has a number of stages and it can take time to get someone fully in place, that’s why the Government needs to ramp-up its recruitment. We were promised €35m would be invested in our mental health services every year under this government but time and again this money has been siphoned off to plug holes in the HSE budget.

“In fact it’s regularly been the first port of call. The chronic under investment by this Government to the tune of €70m is shameful. It’s extremely frustrating for frontline workers in mental health who know that we are lacking important specialist care for certain patients and that waiting lists for access to basic services are getting longer all the time.

“Our mental health services are suffering. They’re suffering from a lack of investment, from a lack of essential staff and from a lack of political leadership. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of A Vision for Change, the guiding body of principles by which we were supposed to completely reshape how mental health was viewed and treated in Ireland.

“A holistic model of care means patients need to be treated in their communities where possible, supported by family and friends, and given access to appropriate services in a timely fashion. Unfortunately this is not happening. The Government needs to seriously address the under investment in mental health in the budget and put our services back on a course to deliver proper care for patients.”

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