Green Party Calls For Frontline Staffing Increases In Mental Health Services


At a recent Cork Co. Council meeting Cllr Liam Quaide of the Green Party highlighted ongoing staff shortages in the mental health services. Cllr Quaide, who is a clinical psychologist, proposed that the Council collectively write to the Dept. of Health requesting clear figures for the planned recruitment of frontline staff, by discipline and across care groups for Cork County. This motion was seconded by Cllr Noel Collins and received unanimous support from other Councillors.
Cllr. Quaide reflected on a framework document for the running of our mental health services known as A Vision for Change, which was published in 2006. He said that thirteen years after its publication “some of its key recommendations were nowhere remotely on the horizon and staffing levels were falling short across the range of services”.
According to Cllr Quaide, “this lack of staff provision is not just a dereliction of duty to some of the most vulnerable people in our society, it is ultimately going to cost the state more in the long run. When clients’ mental health needs are not met at a community level they are more at risk of hospital admissions, absences from work and increased GP attendance. This state of affairs places enormous strain on mental health service staff and general practice.”
According to Cllr Quaide, “these failings in ground level staff provision have occurred in the context of exponential growth in layers of senior management. The number of senior managers in the HSE generally has increased by 80% in just seven years.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Danielle Twomey spoke in support of the motion, which she said was "timely". She said that "in the last number of budgets, the government has failed to invest adequately in our mental health services". Cllr Twomey spoke of dealing with many families who were unable to access Child and Adolescent Mental Health services, which she described as "a shambles". She added that "mental health does not seem to be a priority for this government."
Cllr Quaide referenced a recent report by Dr. Susan Finnerty, Inspector of Mental Health Services which revealed that many clients with severe and enduring mental health difficulties are “trapped in inpatient units” or being “left with families, often with ageing parents, who cannot provide the support and care needed.” According to Dr. Finnerty, there are 23 community rehabilitation teams for such clients nationally; just 48% of what is required under current mental health policy. Of those teams, none is staffed to recommended levels. She criticised the “out of sight, out of mind” attitude shown to these clients.
Cllr Quaide expressed concern about an apparent lack of commitment to staffing level increases in the government’s forthcoming ‘refresh’ of A Vision for Change. Cllr Kay Dawson of Fine Gael advised Cllr Quaide not to presume what Mental Health Minister Jim Daly was thinking in this regard. Cllr Quaide responded by saying, “I hope I am wronging Minister Daly in being sceptical of his commitment to these much needed staffing increases. If I am wronging him he will have no problem providing us with the recruitment figures we are all hoping for”.
Cllr Quaide criticised the government for spending considerable money on ad campaigns urging distressed people to talk to someone at a time when frontline services were struggling to meet the needs of clients. “We are not going to advertise our way out of our mental health crisis with nice slogans”, he said. “We need properly resourced services for that”.