Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Mental Health Services

9:12 am

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue today. I am replying on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Butler.

We care, society cares and the Government cares. The continued development of specialist services for eating disorders, including improved access and shorter waiting lists, remain a key priority for the Government, the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, Deputy Butler, the Department and the HSE. In response to the growth in the number of cases presenting to mental health services, the HSE developed a national clinical programme for eating disorders in partnership with the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and Bodywhys, the national support group for people with eating disorders.

The eating disorder model of care was launched in 2018 and €5.7 million was allocated to date for the implementation of this programme. The clinical programme will establish an eating disorder network, including eight adult teams and eight child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, teams in total. Some €1.77 million has been invested to date in eating disorder specialist posts with 21.8 whole-time equivalent posts in place. It is of critical importance that the Minister of State secured the balance of €3.94 million to be made available to the programme, which will enable further investment in specialist posts throughout this year. This comprises the completion of the three existing specialist eating disorder teams and the establishment of three new teams. The three existing specialist eating disorder teams are located in CHO 4 CAMHS, CHO 7 CAMHS and CHO 6 adults. The three new teams in development include the adult teams in CHO 9, CHO 4 and the CAMHS team in CHO 2. Recruitment for all teams is progressing well and each CHO is fully committed to this process and is on target to have staff recruited by year end.

While there is much to be done, the progress made to date with existing teams has had a significant impact. In 2020, there was a 43% increase in the number of eating disorder assessments compared to 2019, with twice as many people starting treatment. This trend continued in 2021. Specialist outpatient treatment has been found to be the most effective and fastest way for most people with eating disorders to recover.

More than 90% of people with eating disorders can be supported in the community, avoiding more serious inpatient treatment. However, a small number of people may require inpatient care for short periods for structured refeeding and stabilisation. Inpatient care is currently provided in the four regional CAMHS units across the country. Linn Dara and Merlin Park have dedicated six and eight beds respectively, and while there are no dedicated beds in the remaining two CAMHS units, all beds are available to eating disorder admissions. A further eight beds are planned for an eating disorder unit in the national children's hospital.

I am aware that the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, recently visited the CAMHS eating disorder teams in Dublin and Cork to get an understanding of how the service operates on the ground. Adults who require inpatient care are admitted to local general adult approved centres. CHO 6 has three dedicated beds for eating disorders based in St. Vincent's University Hospital. The number of adult beds will increase, including an additional three beds in St. Vincent's, five in north Dublin, five in Galway and five in Cork. These beds will be linked to eating disorder hubs. Significant enhancements have also been achieved in the area of digital supports for people with eating disorders.

In March 2020, the free national clinical programme for eating disorders and Bodywhys application was launched. Telehealth has rapidly been enhanced and existing service users can access specialist eating disorder teams, who are providing ongoing care throughout the pandemic. More than 500 therapy sessions have been delivered to date. The development of all aspects of mental health services, including specialist services for eating disorders, continues to be a priority for Government, the Minister of State, the Department and the HSE. This is reflected in the current programme for Government and our national mental health policy.


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