Written Answers. - Psychological Service.

Mary Wallace

Question:

276 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the haphazard situation regarding training places for clinical psychologists in universities, which are only funded if there are sufficient students with health board sponsored six year contracts to take up the course, leading to the position in 2002 where only two students commenced training; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that at least 40% of health board vacancies occur due to the lack of trained psychologists; if he will take steps to ensure that these courses are run on a more solid financial basis; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that an annual target of 50 training places for clinical psychologists needs to be in place to fill current vacancies in the health board services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10627/03]

My Department, together with the health boards, is currently supporting the implementation of a key recommendation of the report of the joint review group on psychological services in the health services relating to human resource planning through the provision of a substantial number of additional postgraduate training places in clinical psychology. This has resulted in a threefold increase since the end of 1999, from 26 to 83, in the number of student clinical psychologists employed in the health services.

In addition, my Department is continuing to work with health agencies and the education authorities to ensure adequate postgraduate training places in clinical psychology, consistent with the human resource requirements of the health services and the important recommendations on investment in training and education detailed in the "Action Plan for People Management" published in November 2002, in order to secure the best return on the very significant financial resources being invested in this area.
At a general level, it should be recognised that significant progress has been made in addressing the human resource requirements of the health service in the area of clinical psychology. In the two year period to the end of 2001 the numbers of fully qualified psychologists working in the health service increased significantly, from 279 to 370 or in excess of 30%. Information in respect of the position at the end of 2002 is being compiled by my Department and is expected to reveal further increases in the number of psychologists employed.