The HSE has spent over €20m on agency fees to provide mental health services in the first five months of the year.  The figure was contained in a reply to a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil’s Mental Health Spokesperson James Browne.

“This is a substantial amount of money being spent by the HSE in order to temporarily plug gaps in services.  If the trend continues, an agency spend of some €48 million will be drawn down for the year – a figure equivalent to more than five percent of the annual budget on mental health”, said Deputy Browne.

“The Government committed €15 million of new mental health funding in 2017. Despite this, not a single position in the mental health services has yet been filled with that money.  If the current trend in agency staff spending continues, it will amount to more than three times the €15m funding figure.

“The HSE has previously acknowledged that agency staff are more costly and subject to greater limitations.

“Pledges to reduce agency use and to meet services need by direct recruitment must be honoured. Aside from the fact that it is less expensive, it will give those requiring mental health services the added bonus of being able to build a relationship with a full time care provider and not a temporary stand in.

“As with so many other areas of our mental health services, the level of agency spending is a challenge that requires urgent attention”.