February 26, 2010


THE MORATORIUM on recruitment of nurses to mental health services will have to be eased if the Government’s plans to reform the sector are to proceed, Minister of State with responsibility for mental health John Moloney said yesterday.

He said he asked for the issue to be put on the agenda for this afternoon’s Cabinet sub-committee meeting on health. “It’s very hard to deliver A Vision for Change on the ground unless the moratorium is somewhat eased. It would be impossible to carry out the reform.”

His comments at the publication of a report by Amnesty International Ireland came a day after the Irish Mental Health Coalition (IMHC) called for an immediate end to the moratorium on recruiting.

Caroline McGrath, director of the IMHC, said the moratorium was crippling the Government’s reform programme as outlined in its mental health policy A Vision for Change published in 2006.

“The Government’s plan for moving from acute hospital care to a community-based service was based on redeploying existing staff and expanding the total number of staff. Instead we have a service that is not even maintaining the status quo, but is haemorrhaging staff, reducing A Vision for Change to a mere pipe dream,” she said.

“According to published HSE information, 719 posts have been lost in the past 14 months. This is a brutal cut and a fatally flawed attempt to save money.”

Mr Moloney said he would be announcing detailed plans for the implementation of A Vision for Change next Monday. He would outline how €50 million would be spent on capital developments in the mental health sector this year, as well as the money expected to be realised from the sale of 14 old psychiatric hospitals over the next three years.

He said no matter how much was generated from the sale of these hospitals, some €50 million would be invested each year over the next few years in capital developments in the mental health sector. The Irish Council for Social Housing would help provide accommodation for those leaving the old psychiatric hospitals.

At the press conference in Dublin yesterday to launch a report into mental health, Amnesty International Ireland criticised the Government for failing to fully implement the recommendations in A Vision for Change .

Amnesty’s executive director Colm O’Gorman also called for a more co-ordinated approach to mental health from governmental departments.

The report, A Missing Link: Co-ordinated Government Action on Mental Health , outlines ways in which departments such as Social and Family Affairs, Education and Science, Justice and Enterprise, Trade and Employment can take steps to address the problems of people with mental health issues.

“If the Government is serious about reducing inpatient care in line with the policy set out in A Vision for Change it must recognise the crucial role that other departments must play in making this vision a reality,” said Mr O’Gorman.