Youngsters Face One-Year Wait To Receive Psychiatric Care

NEARLY 3,600 children are now waiting to see a psychiatrist, with more than 1,000 facing delays of at least a year. The waiting lists are growing with 465 more young people in this predicament compared to two years ago.

The continuing crisis in child and adolescent mental health services remains despite promises by the Health Service Executive to prioritise it as a key area for development.

“With cutbacks on the way there are now serious concerns that this bad situation will get even worse,” warned Fine Gael spokesman on disability David Stanton who obtained the figures in a parliamentary reply.

Commenting on the figures, child psychiatrist Dr Brendan Doody said there is still a way to travel to build up services for these young people and there is a need for sustained investment in staff and other services.

He said, however, that once a child is referred to a psychiatrist each case is assessed and the most urgent young people are seen as quickly as possible.

“All referrals are assessed by the team. Not everyone automatically joins the waiting list. A decision is made on the urgency at which they are seen.

“A child who presents with deliberate self harm could be seen that day.


“If a child has a serious eating disorder or is psychotic he will be seen. Children with less severe presentations are put on a waiting list. The concern is that their problem might become more pronounced while on the list.”

He pointed out that the age at which adolescents were to be seen in their own service was raised from 16 to 18 under new legislation. Previously the cut off point for admission to adult services was 16 years of age.

It has been estimated that this almost doubles the cost of service because you need more beds and the number of admissions in 16 to 18 year olds is higher because of the onset of serious conditions like schizophrenia . In the reply to Mr Stanton, the HSE said that its service plan for 2008 includes proposals to add another eight child and adolescent mental health teams to the service.

It also plans to open up another 18 specialist child and adolescent beds in Dublin, Galway and Cork bringing the total to 30.

Construction is also to begin on two 20-bedded acute units in Cork and Galway and these are expected to be completed next year. It has also advertised for 12 child and adolescent psychiatrists to be hired under the terms of the new consultants’ contract. Incentives are also to be introduced to try to get teams to reduce their existing waiting lists.

Mr Stanton warned, however, that too many young people are still having to be admitted to adult psychiatric hospitals and units.