Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Defence
Defence Forces Medical Services
39. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when a psychiatrist for the Defence Forces will be appointed following the retirement of the in-house psychiatrist in May 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9404/19]
40. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of the proposal he has put to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the employment of a full-time military psychiatrist; and the expected timeframe for a response on same. [9221/19]
43. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a psychiatrist has been appointed to the Defence Forces; and if there will be further roles to support members of the Defence Forces. [9359/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 39, 40, 43 and 49 together.
At the outset, I want to reassure the Deputies that there is no delay in referring Defence Forces personnel requiring immediate psychiatric care or assessment. Patients presenting to Defence Forces Primary Carers (Medical Officers or contracted civilian GPs), with a requirement for urgent psychiatric assessment are referred to HSE Accident & Emergency Departments. Those requiring hospitalisation are admitted immediately. For non-urgent outpatient cases the waiting time for a HSE appointment is approximately 3 months. Therefore, in order to provide Defence Forces Primary Carers with the broadest range of options possible in dealing with the spectrum of cases that present to them, they have also been authorised to refer cases to local external private psychiatrists for outpatient treatment where deemed appropriate.
An in-house psychiatrist has not yet been appointed to the Defence Forces. By way of background, a 2017 review of the Defence Forces psychiatric service recommended the employment of a full-time military psychiatrist. The previous incumbent providing these services to the Defence Forces on contract retired in May 2018 while arrangements were being made to implement this recommendation. To continue to provide an interim in-house service until such time as the military psychiatrist position could be filled, efforts were made to engage a locum. However, this proved to be unsuccessful.
A direct entrant competition for the position of military psychiatrist was launched on 26th July 2018 and closed on 30th September 2018. No applications were received for this competition.
To explore every option to facilitate an in-house appointment, I recently gave approval for my Department to conduct a competition for a contracted civilian consultant psychiatrist on a temporary 24-month contract at pay rates equivalent to those available in the HSE. As this is a civilian appointment, sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) is required and has been formally requested. My Department is actively pursuing this matter with DPER.
As I have outlined on a number of occasions, there is a nationwide shortage of trained psychiatrists, with recruitment issues in a number of sectors of the health service. The difficulty with recruitment for such a position is not unique to the Defence Forces.