GP slams waiting list delays for children with suicidal thoughts

GP slams waiting list delays for children with suicidal thoughts
Dr Declan Mathews, of Emmet Place Family Practice in Youghal.

A CORK GP has slammed HSE delays amid fears for patients as young as eight suffering with suicidal ideation.

Dr Declan Mathews in Youghal is worried for the 650 Cork children on the waiting list for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Recent figures revealed that 113 children had been waiting more than a year.

“These figures are very depressing,” Dr Mathews said. “The children at the centre of this are not dealing with simple problems. Children on this list are living with serious mental illness. The situation is a lot worse than it looks, there are also children as young as eight and nine.”

He highlighted the pressure facing GPs as a result of delays. “I have training in adult psychiatry, but not child psychiatry. The reality is that very few GPs have. As a result we are left dealing with children in situations we don’t feel comfortable with.

“You get tired of saying ‘sorry’ and ‘I can’t speed it up.’ These delays are hugely distressing for parents who are doing the right thing in coming to see their GP. This is one of the areas GPs are losing sleep over. Kids in this situation are very vulnerable. They are unpredictable in that they could harm themselves.”

He fears delays are putting GPs in the firing line as opposed to those responsible for social policy. “Politicians take notice only after it’s too late. That’s when everything hits the fan and questions are asked about why anything wasn’t done.”

Dr Mathews emphasised the unpredictable nature of acute mental health issues. “You can’t guarantee that something won’t go wrong in an instant. This causes a lot of worry. You can safety net and enquire and ask about thoughts of self-harm, but that unpredictability is always there.”

Dr Mathews said his criticism was not aimed at those working in the service: “Social workers and psychologists are doing their best. I feel sorry for those working on a limb without the safety net of a consultant psychiatrist.”

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