Youth mental health: Chronic understaffing in Cork leading to 'out of control' waiting lists 

"There are hundreds of children, many in crisis, left on waiting lists because of understaffing."
Youth mental health: Chronic understaffing in Cork leading to 'out of control' waiting lists 

Across Cork city and county, only one CAMHS team is considered fully staffed, according to figures released to Cork North Central TD Thomas Gould.

The majority of Cork's Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) team are understaffed, and a Cork TD says it is leading to “out of control” wait times for youth mental health services.

Across Cork city and county, only one CAMHS team is considered fully staffed, according to figures released to Cork North Central TD Thomas Gould.

CAMHS services are designed for children and adolescents presenting with moderate to severe mental health needs. There are a total of eight sector-based community mental health teams in Cork but only the team in South Lee 2 has enough staff to meet the staffing levels recommended by A Vision for Change.

The North Cork CAMHS team is the most understaffed, meeting only half (52%) of the recommended staffing level. Mr Gould called for Minister for Mental Health Mary Butler to “come forward with urgent targeted solutions to staff CAMHS services in Cork”.

“We have teams operating at half capacity, despite knowing that Covid-19 has had a huge impact on child and adolescent mental health," he said. 

"What is even more worrying is that the figures for full staffing were taken from a document published in 2006. 16 years later and we don’t have full staffing in Cork or nationally.

“We know that waiting times for CAMHS services are out of control with children and there are hundreds of children, many in crisis, left on waiting lists because of understaffing."

Deputy Gould said that the failure to resource CAMHS is that of the government’s, adding that Minister Butler has “failed to appoint a National Director for Mental Health to address this accountability deficit”.

“We supported her call for this appointment, but the HSE have so far refused. Who is calling the shots here, the Minister or the HSE?” he asked.

Kevin Morrison, acting Head of Mental Health Services in Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, said that at all times, Mental Health Services “strives to ensure that the staff profile and skill mix appropriately meets the needs of all service users, and to optimise and maximise the number of staff available to meet critical clinical lead”.

He said it was important to note that all CAMHS services nationally have been experiencing difficulties recruiting and retaining staff.

“Management in Cork Mental Health Services have been taking every measure to acquire the necessary resources, clinical and otherwise to ensure a quality service for the children of Cork going forward,” he said.

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