Major staff shortages hit mentally ill

Major staff shortages hit mentally ill

By Liz Lockhart

The latest report from the Mental Health Commission holds some shocking revelations particularly in the area of staff shortages. 

The commission warned that due to the moratorium on public sector recruitment, mental health sevices are experiencing major staff shortages.

The 2010 annual report says that these shortages are undermining efforts to reform how people with mental health illnesses are treated, just as demand for services is increasing due to the economic recession.

Dr Edmond O’Dea, chairman, said last Thursday, in some areas, 20 per cent of nurses had left the mental health services over the past two years and had not been replaced.

He said that it was ‘deeply disappointing’ that this was hampering efforts to more from institutional care towards more community-based mental health services.

Dr O’Dea said ‘This is a big problem as staff are being withdrawn from community services in order to plug gaps in inpatient units.  This is another factor slowing down the move from institutional to community care.’

The retirement age for nurses working in the mental health service is 55 years of age rather than the usual 60 years.  This has led to a high number of nurses leaving the mental health service.

O’Dea added that the eonimic recession had put additional pressure on individuals and this was leading to increased demands for mental health services.

‘At the same time the very difficult situation regarding the public finances makes it difficult to secure the resources necessary to achieve the changes and improvements in mental services that are required,’ he said.

According to there were 14 involuntary admissions of children to approved centres in 2010, which was a slight increase on the 10 children admitted in 2009.  Last year 162 people died in mental health centres, down from 172 reported in 2009.  Some 14 per cent of the deaths were sudden and unexplained.

The commission welcomed Government commitments for the development of community mental health teams and end the practice of placing children and adolescents in adult wards in Ireland. 

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