Fianna Fáil Mental Health spokesperson James Browne has voiced his concern about the significant number of vacancies for psychiatrist appointments across the country.

“This week I received information from the HSE which shows that 61 psychiatrist posts are vacant. These posts cover a number of specialities such as Child and Adolescent, Psychiatry of Learning Disability and Psychiatry of Old Age, as well as general psychiatry”, said Deputy Browne.

“The area of the country worst affected is CHO 4, Cork and Kerry which accounts for 13 of the vacancies. This is not surprising as these counties also experience the worst waiting times for CAMHS services.

“CHO 5, which covers the South East has eight vacancies. In fact, in my own county of Wexford we don’t have a child psychiatrist.

“When we consider these vacancies we should also bear in mind that Ireland has 6 Consultant Psychiatrists per 100,000 of population, just half the EU average, and yet we are struggling simply to maintain an already low base.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the 2012 pay cut for consultants is having an impact and it is important for all health services, not just mental health, that this is reversed as soon as possible.

“We have been experiencing a high vacancy numbers for some years now. For example, of the 44 Consultant Psychiatrist posts advertised in 2015 and 2016, almost a quarter had no applicants, while 30% had only one applicant.

“We also need to look at training more psychiatrists. The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland sought a 10% increase in basic specialist training this year but only got half what was required.  Furthermore the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care says recruitment should be managed at local level rather than nationally as is currently the case.

“Unless the high vacancy rate is tackled, the government is walking the health service into a series of crises, worse than what is already being experienced.  It is imperative that the Minister takes urgent action to address this issue”.