There are two vacant CAMHS consultant posts in Cork — one in the city due to maternity leave, and the other in North Cork, which has seen the largest CAMHS waiting lists in recent years.
The North Cork area was designated another consultant position in January, making it a two consultant region. However, there has been just one consultant in the area since the other retired in July.
“We have the same level of service in North Cork now as we did last year, but it’s good news that we have an additional consultant post ready to be filled there,” explained Dr O’Brien.
“North Cork clearly warrants a second consultant and that larger team.
“North Cork is our biggest waiting list and it’s such a large area.”
Dr O’Brien added that she was keen to see the other vacancy, in North Lee West, filled sooner rather than later. In the meantime, she said, consultants from other areas were providing cover for the area.
“We want to fill that vacancy quickly because, even though there is cover from other consultants, it’s not the same as having one consultant there all the time, and this is evident in the growing waiting lists there,” Dr O’Brien said.
In January, there were 35 children on CAMHS waiting lists in North Lee West. That had since risen to 55 by the end of September.
“We have interviews set up with candidates, so we may be able to recruit quickly.
“However, it is very difficult, right across Ireland, to recruit consultants to CAMHS positions.
“There are just less of them out there and there is huge demand.”
“One of the areas we’ve been working on in recent years is actually trying to train more of our own,” Dr O’Brien revealed.
“I think there is a workforce planning issue nationally and, in order to address the need nationally, we need to start training more specialists in CAMHS, which would result in more consultants becoming available to fill posts.
“Our priority is to fill those posts and we do have a good track record of recruitment in Cork.
“We have had good support from management, who recognise that sometimes we do need to recruit even if there is no post to fill at the time — it’s about preparing for retirements or other departures down the road.”
Dr O’Brien also revealed that there was a vacant CAMHS post in Kerry, which consultants from Cork have been helping to provide cover for in recent months.
“That undoubtedly has affected the number of appointments on offer in Cork, but we have to work together,” she said.
“There is no doubt about it that some of the increase in waiting lists was brought about by consultant vacancies. However, there is also no doubt that we have seen an increase in referrals as a result of Covid,” she added.
“At the start of the pandemic, we saw a marked reduction in referrals. However, as it has gone on, we have seen referrals increase right across the board in terms of both CAMHS and adult mental health services.”