On 26th July 2023, the Inspector of Mental Health Services, Dr Susan Finnerty, published a final independent report on the provision of child and adolescent mental health services (“CAMHS”) in Ireland.
Ongoing and Serious Deficits
The review found that the “ongoing and serious deficits” in the country’s mental health services pose a considerable risk to children and young people. According to the findings, access to safe and effective mental health services is restricted and not guaranteed, and as waiting lists grow in length, families experience great distress and frustration. Indeed, there is a sense amongst parents that a “crisis” situation must be reached before suitable mental health services are offered to those in need.
Inadequate Staffing Levels
Inadequate levels of staffing across CAMHS were also identified as a significant issue, with the report stating that most teams were understaffed, with some even below 50% of the recommended staffing level. This has resulted in reduced access to care, greater waiting lists, and increased strain on staff, as well as cases seemingly getting “lost”. Ineffective governance has compounded these problems, with the review noting that there has been a failure to both fund and recruit key staff.
Information Technology Deficiencies
Furthermore, deficiencies with information technology have plagued CAMHS, with the report revealing that Ireland is trailing comparable countries in this regard. Widespread over-reliance on simplified technology and the absence of suitable IT systems to effectively deal with the likes of organising appointments and managing clinical files have been cited as some of the reasons for this technological shortfall.
Moving forward, a total of 49 recommendations have been proposed to address this alarming state of affairs. Chief amongst these are reforms to the existing governance and clinical structure through “immediate and independent regulation of CAMHS” by the Mental Health Commission (“MHC”); continued engagement between the HSE and the MHC; and oversight of CAMHS and related mental health services by the HSE, with a “comprehensive” strategy to be devised to address same.
About the Author: Avril Scally, is a Partner and Head of the award-winning Medical Negligence Team.