April 24, 2009

Publication: Irish Examiner

Date: Friday, April 24, 2009 Page: 6

Author: Catherine Shanahan

Headline: 3,500 children waiting for mental health services

More than 3,500 children and teens are on waiting lists trying to access mental health services, one third of them for more than a year. The figure has not changed in the last two years despite a Health Service Executive (HSE) review of waiting times in February 2007 and an in-depth analysis of waiting times and service usage in November 2008.

A spokesperson for the HSE said those on waiting lists ranged from children with acute psychiatric problems to children with special needs awaiting assessment as part of the education system. ' "They include children with behavioural, emotional and educational difficulties," the spokesman said. Today, at the annual conference of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) in Tullow, Co Carlow, national chairman Liam McNamara will tell delegates that little has been done to improve services for children and adolescents with mental health difficulties, despite ongoing promises by the Government and the HSE.

 "At the end of 2007 there were about 3,600 children and adolescents on waiting lists with at least one third waiting over a year. We believe there was no change to that figure at the end of 2008. In 2007 there were 364 admissions for children and adolescents to adult facilities which is totally unacceptable," Mr McNamara said. "Despite the promise of 16 fully functioning child and adolescent Community Mental Health teams promised for 2007 and 2008 only three materialised," Mr McNamara will say in his speech.

Mr McNamara criticises the Government for not following through on its own blueprint for reform of the mental health services, A Vision for Change, published in 2006; The document recommended the appointment of a National Mental Health Services Directorate, but this has not happened. The third review of A Vision for Change, published last month by an independent monitoring group, said it was "very disappointed with the rate of progress in implementing A Vision for Change, particularly in relation to those recommendations that are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive". ' The group said change on the scale required to implement the blueprint "requires a degree of' dedicated and skilled leadership and management that the monitoring group has yet to see".

Progress has been made on increasing the number of in-patient child and adolescent beds, from 12 in 2006 to 22 at the present time. The figure should reach 30 by year end, a year behind target. . A statement from the HSE acknowledged the extensive •waiting lists, but said the figure "fails to recognise the continuing development of psychiatric services for young people". It said there were currently 50 children and adolescent mental health teams, with a further eight to come on line this yean It said eight new beds would open in Cork shortly and two 20-bed acute units for children and adolescents are due to come on stream in Cork and Galway by autumn 2009.

The statement said the number of children and young people who require inpatient psychiatric assess- ment and/or care, placed in an adult psychiatric wards, has been steadily falling since 2002.