Some suicidal children are waiting at least 50 days to see a mental health professional, while children referred because of deliberate self-harm can be almost 200 days waiting for assessment, a set of reports from the Mental Health Commission has found.
The level of variation in Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) across the HSE regions was described as “unacceptable” by the chief executive of the regulator.
The reports, which delivered findings of an inspection team which looked at community healthcare organisation across 9 regions, had found that “the immediate and independent regulation of CAMHS by the Mental Health Commission must be put in place to ensure the State and the HSE act swiftly to implement the governance and clinical reforms to help guarantee that all children have access to evidence-based and safe services, regardless of geographical location or ability to pay.”
Amongst the disturbing findings in the 9 reports released today is the revelation that in the Cork and Kerry region, some suicidal children are waiting more than 50 days to be assessed, while children referred because of deliberate self-harm can be almost 200 days waiting for assessment.
These children are described as having” high risk reasons for referral” from a GP.
Suicidal children in Cork and Kerry waiting more than 50 days for helphttps://t.co/zdSz39zVsK
— Liz Dunphy (@LizDunphy1) August 31, 2023
The report also stated that six consultant positions are vacant across Cork and Kerry and patient care is being covered from consultants outside the counties.
The Chief Executive of the Mental Health Commission, John Farrelly told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that there were 45 areas of concern in relation to clinical or quality issues that the reports had highlighted as issues that could not wait, and that they had been “escalated nationally for the HSE to mitigate the risk”.
Ongoing concerns in regard to providing children and teens with mental health care, such as a shortage of consultants, long waiting lists, “lost cases”, have been highlighted by the Commission.
“All children have a right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health under Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by Ireland in 1992,” the Commission found.
“From our review, it appears that this right may have been breached for many children with mental illness. The long waiting lists, the lack of capacity to provide appropriate therapeutic interventions, the “lost” cases, the lack of emergency services and out of-hours services, the difficulties in accessing Primary Care and Disability Services, and the absence of monitoring of certain medications all point to a possible breach of Article 24,” it said.
That report found that on one CAMHS team, “140 children who had open cases had been lost to follow-up”.
In a statement, the Mental Health Commission said that “due to the seriousness of the concerns raised by the review, the Inspector recommended that a comprehensive strategy for CAMHS and all other mental health services for children be prepared; that the implementation of the report recommendations must be monitored by the MHC; and that CAMHS should be immediately and independently regulated by the MHC.”