Minister O´Malley responds to Irish College of Psychiatrists
Responding to a statement made to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children by the Irish College of Psychiatrists, Mr. Tim O´Malley, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, today (22nd April 2004) stated that while further investment in the Mental Health Services is required, substantial progress has been made in ensuring that those in need of mental health services receive care and treatment in the most appropriate setting. “Health Boards have developed, and are continuing to develop, a modern comprehensive community-based mental health service”, the Minister said.
Since 1998 a total of 72 additional consultant psychiatric posts have been approved and additional consultant psychiatrists in Later-Life Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatry, Rehabilitation Psychiatry and Liaison psychiatry in general hospitals have been appointed. “These posts demonstrate recognition at official level of the increasing complexity of psychiatric disorder and the growth of understanding of some of the circumstances and consequences of major mental disorder”, the Minister said.
Since 1997 additional revenue funding of more than €90m has been provided for improvements in mental health services. Much of this funding was allocated to strengthening multi-disciplinary teams. The main development programmes include: community-based services, hospital services, child and adolescent psychiatry, later-life psychiatry, suicide and suicide prevention programmes and the continuing support of the Voluntary sector. The total revenue spend on mental health services in 2004 is more than€600m. “I am fully committed to facilitating the Health Boards in addressing deficits within mental health services and to the further development of those services”, the Minister said.
This year additional revenue funding of €1m and capital funding of €1m was provided to the Central Mental Hospital to allow refurbishment works to be carried out to increase the hospital’s capacity to admit prisoners with a mental illness.
A significant part of the available National Development Plan Funding will go towards the development of acute psychiatric units linked to general hospitals to replace services previously provided in psychiatric hospitals. In 2003, new acute psychiatric units opened in Kilkenny and Castlebar. Three more such units at Blanchardstown, Portlaoise and St Vincent´s Hospital Elm Park are expected to open in the near future. In addition to the twenty-one acute units already in place, a number of units are currently at various stages of planning.
The development of child and adolescent psychiatric services has been a priority in recent years and there have been major improvements in the level of service provision. Since 1999 additional revenue funding of more than €15m has been allocated to provide for the appointment of additional consultants, for the enhancement of existing consultant-led multi-disciplinary teams and towards the establishment of further teams. “It is my intention to ensure that psychiatric services for children and adolescents, both in-patient and community based, will continue to be prioritised” said Minister O´Malley.
Minister O´Malley also referred to the work of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, which is preparing a new national policy framework for the mental health services. “It is acknowledged that a new policy framework is needed, to take account of recent legislative reform, innovative developments in the care and treatment of mental illness and the views of those who use the services, as well as those who work within them” the Minister added. All aspects of mental health policy and service provision will be addressed. The Expert Group is expected to report to the Minister early next year.