Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Mental Health Services
It has been a long day, politically. I will be glad to see the back of it. I thank the Minister of State for her efforts in ensuring funds have been returned to people who were under threat of losing money from their home care packages. The protection of the home help budget has been a major achievement by our side of the House today. I believe the children of County Roscommon are not getting the same treatment as the children of every other county in the country. For the last four years, no occupational therapist has been available to assist those who need to avail of the child and adolescent mental health service. Although those of us in the HSE west are in the same common bond, to put it in credit union terms, people in Roscommon cannot avail of the services of an occupational therapist who might work out of Galway or Mayo. It just cannot be done. In other areas of the health system, it is possible for those with certain specialties to cross county boundaries and assist where needed. A person working for the HSE in Roscommon could get a job in Mayo, and vice versa, if that was happening for promotional purposes. Somebody in Galway could get a promotion in Roscommon. There would be no border issues in such circumstances.
The community occupational therapist who is employed by the health service in Roscommon does not feel qualified to deal with most severe or acute cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, in particular. I know from talking to those involved that cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder takes up a great deal of their time. I am not sure whether the Minister of State saw the recent edition of "Prime Time" that dealt with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I sympathise with any family that has to deal with this problem, which has been downplayed by some psychologists for many years. Some of them do not recognise it as an ailment. Those who have to live with it are living in hell.
When are we going to have an occupational therapist in situin County Roscommon, as this is long overdue?
I thank the Senator for raising the issue. While it is not in my speech, the clinical need in regard to child and adolescent psychiatry in Ireland has, in fact, made one of the clinical programmes in regard to ADHD. It is one of the priority areas and is well recognised at this stage.
The Government has prioritised the reform of our mental health service in line with A Vision for Change and is committed to reforming our model of health care delivery so more and better quality care is delivered in the community. It is the intention that, over time, access to modern mental health services in the community will be significantly improved.
This House will appreciate that the current economic environment presents a significant challenge for the health system generally in delivering services. However, the provision of mental health services is being treated as a priority, in so far as we can do so. In that regard, a special allocation of ¤35 million for mental health was provided in budget 2012, in line with commitments in the programme for Government, to further strengthen existing community mental health teams in both adult and children's mental health services.
Some 414 posts were approved to implement the ¤35 million package of special measures for mental health, of which 150 posts were allocated specifically to child and adolescent mental health services. Under this process, Roscommon-east Galway child and adolescent mental health services received three additional posts, one of which is the senior occupational therapist post referred to by the Senator. To date, 17 posts have been filled nationally and over 270 offers of employment have been accepted from the overall figure of 414. It is expected they will be in post in the next week and the others will be in post, at the very latest, at the end of January next, so the appointments are proceeding. In addition, interviews for the ten posts for the psychological and counselling services in primary care, which will also be funded from the ¤35 million special allocation, were completed recently and the results will issue shortly. The start dates for these ten posts are expected to be in early 2013 to allow for the process of checking references and so on, while most of the other start dates for the community mental health teams are expected to commence this month.
With regard to the specific issue of the occupational therapist post in Roscommon, the HSE has confirmed that the filling of this vacant post has been approved. The HSE national recruitment service has been in contact with the successful candidates inviting them to express an interest in the post. This expression of interest expired on 30 November. The national recruitment service will now issue a recommendation to proceed with the appointment of the candidate who is highest in order of merit and who has expressed an interest in the post. Once the appropriate clearances for the candidate have been processed and finalised, a start date will be agreed and the national recruitment service will issue a contract to the successful candidate.
To conclude, I wish to assure the House that the Government remains committed to the development of community mental health services and, in this regard, the recruitment of the nurses and allied health professionals required to augment community mental health teams will be completed as early as possible.