Written Answers. - Psychological Service.

Phil Hogan

Question:

286 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when he will implement the Government's commitment in respect of the joint review of psychologists' career structures which was published in March 2002, in particular the implementation of the commitment to bringing the number of training places up to 50 a year, the establishment of a director of posts in each health board area, the establishment of principal posts in each community care area and the reduction in the number of vacancies in the psychological services in the medium term in view of the fact that there are 18.6 vacancies for psychologists in the south eastern health board area and the consequence impact on services to the people of Carlow-Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10641/03]

Seán Power

Question:

295 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is his intention to implement the recommendations of the joint review of psychologist career structures as published in March 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10685/03]

John Cregan

Question:

330 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in implementing the recommendations of the joint review of psychologist career structures published in March 2002 in view of the major shortcomings in psychological services, particularly within the South-Eastern Health Board region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10991/03]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

340 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children the timetable for implementing the recommendations of the joint review group on psychology services; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are currently 31% vacancies for psychologists in the South-Eastern Health Board which is having a major effect on services to the people of Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11061/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 286, 295, 330 and 340 together.

The report of the joint review group on psychological services in the health services was published in March 2002. My Department, together with the health boards, is currently supporting the implementation of a key recommendation of the report 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 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. A key objective is to maximise the impact, in terms of graduate output, of the significant financial resources being invested in the health services to support postgraduate clinical psychology training.
I understand that, following a request received from my Department, the director of the health boards executive has undertaken to work with the directors of human resources in the health boards to develop an approach to facilitate the implementation of other recommendations of the joint review group, including the proposed creation of a new organisation and management structure for the psychology services. This is being undertaken in the light of service imperatives, funding priorities and the budget 2003 announcement in December 2002 on public service numbers that resulted in health service employment being capped at 96,000 at that time. In this context, it should also be borne in mind that the overall budgetary and economic position in 2003 has had implications for all aspects of public spending and this is reflected in the Estimates and the budget adopted by the Government for 2003. Within this overall framework, however, some two thirds of the additional funding available for non-capital investment has been allocated to the health services. This funding is being applied largely to maintaining existing levels of service across all service programmes in the health sector.
Responsibility for human resource planning, including the monitoring and filling of vacant psychologist posts, in the South-Eastern Health Board area rests with the chief executive officer. The chief executive officer, in managing the workforce in his region, is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing mix and the precise grades of staff to be employed in line with service plan priorities, subject to overall employment levels remaining within the approved regional employment ceiling.

Mary Wallace

Question:

287 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of clinical psychologist posts that are vacant on a health board by health board basis; the steps his Department is taking to deal with the current high percentage of vacancies; his Department's views on whether there is a need for an annual target of 50 training places for clinical psychologists in order to fill these vacancies; if his Department finds it unacceptable that only two people commenced training in 2002; and if he will make a statement regarding his Department's immediate plans to remedy the situation with regard to the present high percentage of vacancies in the health services for clinical psychologists. [10642/03]

Seán Power

Question:

294 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of psychologist posts in the public health services which are vacant; the plan in place to fill these vacancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10684/03]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 287 and 294 together.

In the two years to the end of 2001, the number of fully qualified psychologists working in the health service increased by more than 30% or by 91 to 380. Information in respect of the employment position at the end of 2002 is being compiled by my Department and will be available shortly.

Information on vacancies of health service personnel is not collected on a routine basis by my Department. Responsibility for human resource planning, including the monitoring and filling of vacant psychologist posts in each health board region, rests with the chief executive officer of each board. Each chief executive officer, in managing the workforce in his or her region, is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing mix and the precise grades of staff to be employed in line with service plan priorities, subject to overall employment levels remaining within the approved regional employment ceiling.

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.

My Department continues to work with health agencies and the education authorities to ensure adequate 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 currently being invested in supporting postgraduate clinical psychology training.