I thank Deputy Moynihan for tabling this question, which relates to child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, in CHO 4. The Government remains strongly committed to developing all aspects of mental health services, including CAMHS, as envisaged under A Vision for Change. This is being delivered by the HSE in the context of its agreed annual service plans. Significant progress has been made over recent years, underpinned by additional funding since 2012 to develop mental health overall. Funding for the service in 2018 amounts to €910 million. The standardised operational procedures of HSE CAMHS support timely access to services. This is based on professional clinical assessment and prioritisation to address the mental health needs of all children presenting to this specialist service.
Despite increasing demands overall on CAMHS, irrespective of the source of referrals, individual cases assessed as urgent receive priority. There are currently 69 CAMHS teams and three paediatric liaison teams, while ten CAMHS teams are in place in CHO 4. Staffing levels in the CAMHS teams vary in Cork-Kerry community healthcare but are below the levels recommended in A Vision for Change. CAMHS teams in CHO 4 are at 52% of the recommendation. It is difficult to determine an exact timeframe for bringing staffing in line with A Vision for Change, but efforts are under way to achieve it.
I would like to assure the Deputy, as would the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, that funding is not the reason posts remain unfilled. At present, there is a European shortage of appropriately trained CAMHS consultant psychiatrists. This is having an impact on the provision of services. On average, there have been two consultant vacancies in teams at any one time in CHO 4. The HSE is striving to recruit and retain suitably qualified CAMHS consultants in the Cork-Kerry region. In addition, it is difficult to replace all clinical CAMHS staff going on maternity leave in Cork-Kerry, a challenge it is addressing.
Recruitment challenges are also experienced in respect of nursing and psychology professionals. A CAMHS medical recruitment task force has been established to review efforts to recruit and retain medical staff. An additional 7.5 posts have been approved for the area in line with programme for Government development funding. These have been allocated to fill posts in teams with low staffing levels and the longest waiting lists, with new staff starting between April and July of this year. Clear action plans have been put in place for each team where waiting lists are over 12 months.
The CAMHS enhancement project commenced at the end of September 2017 in the Cork-Kerry community healthcare area. As a priority, the initial focus has been on reducing waiting times in excess of 12 months. However, in the longer term, the project will address practice changes to improve access to CAMHS to maximise efficiency. The development of CAMHS services in CHO 4 will be progressed in the context of the ongoing review of mental health policy to succeed A Vision For Change.
The Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, met the chief officer of CHO 4 on Friday morning last to review what CAMHS service improvements can be delivered in the short and longer terms. This includes reducing waiting lists and enabling better access to the Eist Linn acute unit in Cork. He will continue to closely monitor CAMHS service improvements overall in CHO 4. I will also ask him to correspond directly with the Deputy on the outcome of his meeting with the chief officer last Friday.