Thursday, 3 June 2021
Mental Health During and Post Covid-19: Statements
Steven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
A number of months ago, I was contacted by a GP in Wicklow who wanted to let me know about the difficulties she was experiencing in trying to refer patients for mental health services. Following this contact, I organised a meeting with a representative group of GPs in Wicklow. Across the board, all of the GPs expressed the same concerns to me on the availability of psychiatry and psychology services in Wicklow across the cohort of services for adults, children and people with intellectual disabilities. Each one of them spoke about referring child and adult patients that had come to them. People who were referred were not seen or there were massive delays. Patients returned to GP surgeries having not been seen with a condition that had worsened. This was very worrying for the doctors and we can understand this. They are limited in what they can do in referring people to these services.
I am aware this situation predates Covid and it predates the Minister of State taking up her role and I do not blame her for it. However, it is a very serious situation. I have no doubt that during the past 18 months more pressure has been put on these services and on GPs. Huge pressure has been placed on every aspect of the HSE. I have listened to Deputies relay stories from their constituencies and I can see it is an issue throughout the country. One of the questions I asked the GPs at the meeting was whether they thought it was a systemic failure or a failure in Wicklow. They did not know the answer. I wondered whether it was an issue in CHO 6 and CHO 7. I contacted the Department on this issue. I acknowledge that the Minister of State and I have had a number of conversations about this. I also acknowledge her office put together a comprehensive report on the queries I had raised with regard to Wicklow. I accept the difficulties experienced because of the cyberattack. I thank the Minister of State for the time she has given me on this. I look forward to receiving the report.
I look forward to being able to go back to the GPs in Wicklow and say that the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, is on top of it and knows what needs to be done. I understand she has had a number of meetings. I look forward to being able to return and say there is a solution to this, whether it is recruitment in psychiatric and psychology services to clear the backlog, and then have a system that functions properly whereby people will be seen in a timely manner. As we know, with every medical condition, whether mental or physical health, timely and early interventions give a better outcome. The longer we leave something run, as people are experiencing on these very long waiting lists, the less likely there will be a good outcome. I thank the Minister of State and I wish her luck with her work. I ask her to pass on my thanks and gratitude to all of her staff and the HSE for the work they have done over the past 18 months.