Call To Cut Mental Health Waiting List

Urgent action must be taken to reduce waiting lists for psychiatric consultation which stand at more than 12 months in many areas of Ireland, it has been claimed. Dan Neville, a Fine Gael TD, called for the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to be made available to mental health patients. “It is simply unacceptable that waiting lists in many areas of the country are in excess of 12 months for psychiatric consultation,” he said. “Despite this the NTPF has never been available to mental health patients and, in the area of child and adolescent psychiatry, in particular, there are waiting periods of one year or more.”

“I am calling on the Minister for Health to take this small step in addressing the crisis in psychiatric services by immediately making available the NTPF and waiting list initiative to deal with a totally disgraceful situation.”

The fund was set up to treat people who have been waiting the longest for treatment in the country’s public hospitals. Treatment can be arranged in private hospitals in Ireland and Britain, or if necessary, in other countries.

Mr Neville, the party’s health spokesman, said it had been well established that early intervention to deal with psychiatric and emotional difficulties was key.

“In 80% of cases in Ireland the psychological and social needs of patients are ignored. Private psychotherapists and psychologists are available in the community. There is no reason, assuming that quality of care is assured, why we cannot buy eight or 10 sessions for the individuals concerned under the NTPF. Why should the treatment of varicose veins be more important than depression?” he said.

Mr Neville said research had shown one in four people will experience mental health issues in our lifetime. In 1997, around 11% of the total health budget was spent on psychiatric services. In 2006, 7% was being spent. World Health Organisation reports find psychiatric conditions account for 19% of total disability, and 10% of people with severe mental illness die by suicide.

“It is a disgrace that, while mental health issues cause more disability than lung problems, the development of services is neglected year after year,” he said. “The Irish College of Psychiatry have reported that one consultant and a partial team can have up to 600 patients which is ludicrous and detrimental to the patients well-being. Psychiatrists, nurses and administrators do their best but the situation is impossible. Those working in the sector get bogged down.”