Cork mother raises concern over Camhs service saying it is 'completely overstretched and understaffed'

The Cork mother said her son has only been seen once by a consultant psychiatrist in over three years. 
Cork mother raises concern over Camhs service saying it is 'completely overstretched and understaffed'

File picture. Anne’s son entered the service about three-and-a-half years ago and has been on medication since June, 2020. Since then, he has been seen only once by a consultant psychiatrist, who has since retired.

A CORK mother whose son is accessing HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) has raised concerns about the “lack of supervision and review” received by her son while on medication, as well as understaffing within the service.

The mother, who wished to be named only as Anne, said she felt Camhs was “completely overstretched and understaffed” and there was a “lack of supervision and review [for patients] while on medication”.

Anne’s son entered the service about three-and-a-half years ago and has been on medication since June, 2020.

Since then, he has been seen only once by a consultant psychiatrist, who has since retired.

Anne said her son went through a “particularly difficult time” last summer but she was “ping-ponged” from one service to another.

“The consultant with Camhs was saying if the ASD [autism spectrum disorder] services gave him services, his anxiety wouldn’t be such an issue, and then when I get on to the children’s disability network team they say they can’t deal with that level of anxiety, it needs to be Camhs.”

“Things were very bad and we were in a very low place and we were crying out for help on our knees.”

She said that she eventually secured some psychology sessions beginning this month after being “a thorn in their side” since last June.

Accessing weekly reviews 

Anne’s son was recently put on a new medication after it was agreed with a consultant but she had to fight for his weekly reviews.

Two weeks of phone calls to the consultant and with no appointment secured, Anne suggested an over-the-phone consultation after getting through to the consultant and a prescription was written up.

Her son was due to receive his first review of his new medication the following week but she said “he would not get dressed and would not go to the appointment”. She rang for an over-the-phone appointment instead but “heard nothing back”.

She said she continued to call with no answer and decided to go to the clinic until someone spoke to her about her son’s dosage.

“We were supposed to be reviewed weekly, we were due to change the dosage and were moving from one medication to another, so we needed to know how to go about this weaning process,” she said.

She said she eventually saw the senior registrar psychiatrist, who “went through everything and agreed on a dosage and a home visit”.

The following week, she received a call to inform her that the home visit “was no longer happening” and was offered appointments at the clinic that she “could not make”.

Last Wednesday, her son received a home visit with a social worker and she is due to call the clinic this week with her son for a check-up.

“From a personal level, it’s extremely frustrating to be dealing with them. I can’t go anywhere else, we’re stuck. There is no private psychiatrist for children in the Cork area. So you can only deal with Camhs and they won’t return your calls. They are extremely overstretched and it comes across as totally unprofessional. I understand they are overstretched and under-resourced but you can’t have this system not be effective,” she said.

Audit of service 

It comes as Mary Butler, the junior minister for mental health and older people, recently confirmed a comprehensive audit of Camhs teams nationally.

Speaking to The Echo, a spokesperson for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said: “We will not comment on individual cases. In a crisis situation, we would urge the service user to engage with their GP or present to the nearest emergency department where necessary supports will be available.

“If a service user wishes to make a complaint, they can do so via the national complaint system ‘Your Service Your Say’ which may be accessed on the HSE website or by phoning 1890 424 555 from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Call 045 880 429 from a mobile.”

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