Wednesday, 26 April 2006
Mental Health Services.
Question 83: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that it is estimated that more than 3,100 children and adolescents await psychological assessment; her Department's policy on the matter; the funding she is making available; the other measures she is taking or intends to take to address this situation and improve mental health services for young people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15488/06]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 83 together.
The future direction and delivery of all aspects of our mental health services, including child and adolescent psychiatry, were considered by the expert group on mental health policy. The Government has accepted and published the group's report entitled A Vision for Change, and €25 million has been provided this year for the further enhancement of mental health services.
A Vision for Change acknowledges gaps in the current provision of child and adolescent services and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services. Recommendations include early intervention and health promotion programmes, primary and community care services, specialist mental health services for the treatment of complex disorders and the provision of additional child community mental health teams. In particular, the group recommended that child and adolescent mental health services should provide mental health services to all those aged up to 18 years who need such services. It also recommended that transitional arrangements to facilitate the expansion of current service provision should be planned by the proposed national mental health service directorate and the local child community mental health teams.
I am informed that the Health Service Executive has established a high level working group to advise on the transition arrangements and to make recommendations on the most appropriate provision for young people aged 16 and 17 years with mental health needs, both within the community and on an inpatient basis.
With regard to the issue of waiting times for psychological assessment, I am informed that the HSE is conducting a review of services nationally to identify and address gaps in service where they exist, and to identify opportunities for additional capacity in line with recommendations in the report A Vision for Change.
The development of child and adolescent psychiatric services has been a priority for the Department in recent years. Since 1997 additional funding of almost €20 million has been provided to allow for the appointment of additional consultants in child and adolescent psychiatry, for the enhancement of existing consultant-led multidisciplinary teams and towards the establishment of further teams. This has resulted in the funding of an extra 23 child and adolescent consultant psychiatrists. Nationally 56 such child and adolescent psychiatrists are now employed by the HSE.
Am I correct in saying that there are only 16 acute beds for children and adolescents in the country, none of which is in the south and all of which are in Galway or Dublin? What plans has the Minister of State to increase the number of such beds and what timescale has he set?
How come more than 3,000 children and adolescents now await psychiatric assessment? If it was a priority of the Government that it should not arise, how did that arise? What timescale has the Minister of State set to reduce this number to acceptable levels, in other words, to zero? What has he to say to parents who have children with psychiatric difficulties when no service is available at present? It is a failure. It is a disgrace. Will the Minister of State provide the House with some timescales and stop the blather? This is a life and death issue for many parents, families and young people.
As regards inpatient or residential services for child and adolescent psychiatry, there are four adolescent units in preparation and they are at an advanced stage.
There was considerable debate about many of the recommendations and some of the suggestions about a new division of psychiatry for the 16 and 17 year old group and it was rejected by the expert group.