Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health, Disability & Special Needs Colm Keaveney has rubbished the Minister Kathleen Lynch’s excuses for severe delays in filling frontline mental health posts.
Reacting to comments from Minister of State Kathleen Lynch today, Deputy Keaveney said it is inexcusable for her to claim that the only reason for enormous gaps in frontline mental health services is because they have been unable to find suitable staff.
“The notion that the HSE has been actively seeking to recruit staff in line with the time frames under A Vision for Change simply does not ring true. In reality, there has been a deliberate and sneaky slowdown in the recruitment of the promised community mental health teams,” said Deputy Keaveney.
“The HSE’s own National Service Plan 2014 outlined plans to delay the recruitment of mental health staff until the latter half of the year to save money. The plan specifically stated that certain recruitment initiatives, including the appointment of community mental health workers, would be ‘specifically targeted towards the latter half of 2014 to allow … savings to be utilised on specific services on a timing delayed basis’.
“Minister Lynch’s claims are entirely contradicted by HSE responses to parliamentary questions that I placed earlier this year and in late 2014. Their responses demonstrate that there was a deliberate decision by the HSE to delay the commencement of the recruitment process for these posts.
“In January of this year, the HSE stated in one response to me that they had not yet even commenced the recruitment process for over half of the promised posts for 2014. How could they even assess if there was a shortage of suitable candidates if they had not even commenced any efforts to look for them?
“Delays in hiring are a direct cause in delays in treatment. Those struggling with mental health issues cannot put off their illness and delays in treatment often lead to a worsening of their condition, requiring even greater care than would have been required with earlier intervention.
“Seeking to gain savings through the delaying of the initiation of the recruitment process is simply perverse.
“This was a political decision. This Government has implemented a deliberate policy of delaying the recruitment of staff in order to ease the pressures on the health budget elsewhere. As a result, the funding that was ring-fenced for the recruitment of specialised community health teams under A Vision for Change has gone unspent year on year.
“There are now 1,000 less filled mental health posts than there were when this Government took up office in 2011. This is at a time when the demand for services is greater than ever. The implications of failing to recruit the promised community health teams are grave. We cannot continue to allow a situation where someone who is in severe difficulty has nowhere to go.
“I am calling on Ministers Leo Varadkar and Kathleen Lynch to be up-front about what is going on here. It’s high time that mental health provision was prioritised within the health budget.”