Concern Over Mental Health Staff Shortages

The Inspector of Mental Health Services has said the vast majority of the system’s catchment areas lack sufficient staff to provide the multidisciplinary services required by law.

In her annual report, Dr Susan Finnerty praises carers for accepting the need for teamwork but says they are acutely aware of the deficits within their own services that contravene the recently implemented Mental Health Act.

According to the Mental Health Commission, the full commencement last year of the 2001 Mental Health Act signals a new era in mental health services in Ireland. The most significant and far-reaching change underlined is that integrated care planning is now required by law.

That in turn means that teams must harness psychiatrists, occupational therapists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, speech and language therapists and psychologists to care for patients’ many needs.

But Dr Finnerty says that only two of Ireland’s 32 catchment areas are staffed sufficiently to be in a position to offer a core multidisciplinary team in each of its sub-sectors.

For the third year running, the Inspectorate raises serious concerns about the difficulties that face patients in long-stay wards. Of the 2,760 people involved, 1,077 were in hospital for over five years.

Dr Finnerty says that though the numbers of long-stay patients are slowly decreasing, the conditions of many remaining wards are entirely inadequate.