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Friday, 3 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 121-140

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 119.

Primary Care Centres

Questions (122)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

122. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the new primary health care centre for Finglas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59425/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Health Service Executive is responsible for the delivery of public healthcare infrastructure projects, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly in relation to this matter.

Health Services

Questions (123)

Mark Ward

Question:

123. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health the status of the closure of the Keltoi rehabilitation centre in St. Marys, Phoenix Park; when will it be reopened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59011/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The reply to parliamentary question 57526/21, raised by the Deputy on the 23rd November 2021, sets out the current position in relation to the Keltoi facility, Phoenix Park.

The HSE has advised that there is still a very significant ongoing demand for isolation in this facility and that it will be maintained as a Covid Isolation Facility for the coming winter period.

I have been assured by the HSE that it remains committed to enhancing the residential addiction services in this area including the reopening of the facility once it is no longer required as part of the Covid-19 response.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Questions (124)

James O'Connor

Question:

124. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for Health the number of persons currently waiting for a neurology outpatient appointment in Cork hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59110/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last twenty months as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While significant progress was made in reducing waiting times from June 2020 onwards, the surge in Covid-19 cases in the first quarter of 2021 and the associated curtailment of acute hospital services, coupled with the ransomware attack of May 2021, has impacted waiting times.

The current surge in Covid-19 cases has put increasing pressures on hospitals and ICUs. As part of the response to this the HSE advised all Hospital Groups on 18th November, to take a series of immediate actions which include a 14 day period of prioritising unscheduled care, COVID care and time sensitive work in particular in Model 4 hospitals. The situation is to be reviewed after that period.

On the 7th October I published the Acute Waiting List Action Plan. This plan, to run until December 2021, has a series of targeted measures that are designed to address the growth in waiting lists caused by Covid-19 and the cyber-attack. In addition, my Department, the HSE and the NTPF are also working on a Multi Annual Waiting List Plan to bring waiting lists in line with Sláintecare targets over the coming years. This process will be overseen by a Ministerial Taskforce, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and includes representatives from the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund. The plan will be informed by the lessons learned from the successful Vaccine Taskforce.  

For 2022 an additional allocation of €250 million, comprised of €200 million to the HSE and €50 million to the National Treatment Purchase Fund has been provided in respect of work to reduce hospital and community waiting lists. The €250 million will be used to fund additional activity in both the public and private sectors. The €50 million additional funding provided to the NTPF brings its total allocation for 2022 to €150 million, and as a consequence there will be a budget of €350 million available to support vital initiatives to improve access to acute hospitals and community health services.

The information requested by the Deputy, is outlined in the attached document. The information set out in these documents shows the number of patients on the neurology outpatient waiting list in hospitals in County Cork. This information is also available on the NTPF website at: www.ntpf.ie/home/nwld.htm .

Cork Hospitals Neurology Outpatient Waiting List

 0-6Months

 6-12Months

 12-18Months

18+Months

Grand Total

CUH

966

704

471

291

2432

Bantry General

39

9

5

3

55

Small Volume Hospitals

6

Statistical Disclosure Control (SDC) techniques have been applied to the data to preserve confidentiality and mitigate against identification or self-identification of individuals. In cases where there are less than 5 people in any particular cell, we have replaced that value with the average (mean) of all values that are less than 5 across that category. Any decimal values which arise have then been rounded. This may cause some rounding to occur when calculating sub-totals. Where there are <20 patients waiting in a particular specialty/hospital, we have aggregated the numbers under a ‘Small Volume’ heading.

Legislative Measures

Questions (125)

Bríd Smith

Question:

125. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Health if an independent expert has been appointed to lead the review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018; when the review will be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59469/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 was signed into law on 20 December 2018 and commenced on 1 January 2019. Under section 7 of the Act, a review of the operation of the Act must be initiated within three years of the commencement of the Act, i.e., before January 2022. 

The review of the operation of the Act is being progressed this year, in line with statutory and Government commitments, and will conclude in 2022.

As I have stated previously, an independent Chair will be appointed to lead the review, which will comprise a three-part approach to appraise the operation of the Act, with strands focusing on service users, service providers and a public consultation. Independent research commissioned to inform the service user and service provider strands will form key elements of the review. An opportunity will be provided for interested groups, organisations, and members of the public to provide their views to inform the review. 

Upon completion, a full report with any necessary recommendations will be submitted to me, as Minister, for consideration.

Departmental Functions

Questions (126, 165)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

126. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health his views on the proposal to establish a health and social care advisory unit within his Department which would operate in a similar manner to the Chief Nursing Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59253/21]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

165. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health when he expects his Department’s review of its structure, functions and processes to be completed; if this review will include a recommendation in respect of a proposal to establish a health and social care advisory unit within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59254/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 165 together.

Under the Public Service Management Act, the Secretary General of the Department of Health has the authority, responsibility and accountability for a range of functions, including the assignment of staff within an appropriate structure to facilitate an effective response to matters that pertain to the Department, while ensuring cost effective public services.

A new Statement of Strategy for the Department is now in place and the Secretary General has established a review which is examining how best to structure the Department and to prioritise the assignment of its available staffing within its sanctioned employment ceiling, in order to meet its strategic business priorities over the coming years.

The Department is considering arrangements for incorporating relevant expert advice for its policy work on a multi-disciplinary basis as part of the review. The review is ongoing and as such, no decision has been made on any particular Units which may be established.

It is anticipated that implementation of the outcome of the review will commence during 2022.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (127, 139)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

127. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Health if he will clarify the role of public health teams in contact tracing in school settings. [59015/21]

View answer

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

139. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Health if the HSE will provide greater support to school leaders who are experiencing Covid-19 cases in their school. [59016/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 139 together.

The HSE has worked to ensure that the measures in place in schools are robust and prioritise the safety of staff and children.

In line with recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team, it was agreed that automatic contact tracing of asymptomatic close contacts in children aged over 3 months and less than 13 years, in Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) facilities, primary education and social and sporting groups was no longer recommended.

This means that Public Health Risk Assessments are no longer routinely undertaken in these settings, with the exception of Special Education Needs (SEN) facilities. However, Public Health teams continue to respond to outbreaks and infection incidents in certain circumstances where considered clinically appropriate. The HSE continue to provide a dedicated phoneline for school Principals in circumstances where assistance is required from Public Health in relation to a confirmed case of Covid-19 within their school community. Schools are controlled settings and the approach to testing and contact tracing is risk-based in relation to the setting, age-group and the existence of other preventive measures. 

As case numbers increase in younger age groups, the situation in our schools continues to be monitored closely. From Monday 29th November, as an additional measure to support parents and schools, free antigen tests are now offered for primary school children who are identified as close contacts as part of a pod in which there was a confirmed case of COVID-19. Where two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 occur in a class within a seven-day period, outside of a single pod, antigen testing will be offered to the full class. All children in the pod can continue to attend school as long as they remain asymptomatic and they do not have a positive COVID-19 antigen or PCR test result.

As an additional precautionary measure for staff working in the classroom, where there is a confirmed case in a pod, an SNA or teacher working closely with children in the pod may also avail of the antigen tests and request them in the same way as parents/guardians are instructed. Where there is an additional case in a second pod within seven days, then the class teacher and other staff members working in the classroom may also avail of the antigen tests .This is an entirely voluntary measure and staff should continue to attend the workplace unless they develop symptoms or receive a detected result on the antigen test.

Further information on antigen tests for primary school children is available on the HSE website as follows: www2.hse.ie/conditions/covid19/testing/antigen-tests-for-primary-school-children/.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has published guidance on 'COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control guidance for Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare settings during the COVID-19 Pandemic' which is available as follows: www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/childcareguidance/Guidance%20for%20services%20providing%20childcare%20services.pdf.

The role of testing and contact tracing, as part of the wider public health response, has been under ongoing review throughout the pandemic and will continue to be reviewed and amended in line with the epidemiological profile of the disease, its impact on healthcare utilisation and outcomes, the vaccination status of the population and ECDC guidance.

Health Services

Questions (128)

Francis Noel Duffy

Question:

128. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Health if a decision has been made with regard to the allocation of the €500,000 to address the crack cocaine crisis announced as part of Budget 2022; if not, the date by which this decision will be made in view of the fact that community drugs projects are struggling to maintain services and have no clarity on available funds from 1 January 2022 to meet the needs of service users on crack cocaine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59347/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

In Budget 2022, an additional €6m was provided for new health measures to support the implementation of the national drugs strategy, Reducing Harm Supporting Recovery.

As part of this €6m, €0.5m was allocated to address high risk drug use, such as crack cocaine and other drugs. The funding will expand harm reduction responses both in local communities and as a response to the use of stimulant drugs in the night time economy. It will also extend the Naloxone demonstration Project to prevent drug overdose deaths.

The Department of Health has published a factsheet on the additional funding in Budget 2022 which can be found at www.gov.ie/en/publication/001fc-budget-2022-factsheet/. This includes a summary of the new health measures in tabular format.

The HSE National Service Plan 2022 will provide details on the allocation of the new funding.

I believe this new funding will strengthen the health-led approach to drug and alcohol use as

set out in the Programme for Government and support the strategic priorities for 2021-2025 under the national drugs strategy, which I recently announced. 

Factsheet

Hospital Staff

Questions (129)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

129. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Health if additional neurology nurses are being recruited for St. Vincent’s Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59236/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (130, 151, 203)

Duncan Smith

Question:

130. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Health the contingency plans in place if the number of PCR tests that is currently being carried out continues and capacity remains stretched; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59246/21]

View answer

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

151. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Health his plans in relation to the availability of PCR tests; his plans to increase testing capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59482/21]

View answer

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

203. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the furthest distance persons requiring PCR tests are required to travel to get these tests; if it is planned to set up new testing centres nearer the populations furthest away from the existing centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [58583/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130, 151 and 203 together.

Testing and contact-tracing continues to be a key component of the Government’s response to the pandemic.

Demand for testing at this time is very high, with almost 220,000 tests conducted in the last seven days. This demand on the testing and tracing system is due to the high level of infection currently being experienced in the community.

The HSE is making every effort necessary to address the very significant demand arising for PCR testing. This includes making arrangements with private providers to add new capacity, extending the opening hours of swabbing centres and ongoing recruitment and redeployment to swabbing teams, and doubling the number of National Ambulance Service mobile teams. The HSE also continues to monitor the need for testing centres and the most appropriate locations at any given time. 

The HSE currently operates 35 CHO testing centres which are available to the general public plus 3 additional centres being provided by private providers on the HSE’s behalf. The HSE continue to monitor the situation very closely and investigations are ongoing for the potential to open additional centres including exploring options for engagement with further private testing services.

Individuals who have a medical condition that prevents them from getting to a test centre can be referred by a GP for a home test.

These measures have increased the base community PCR capacity from 15,000 to 25,000 tests per day. Including acute hospital capacity, the HSE is now able to deliver 29,500 tests a day.

People using the self-referral online portal to book a test may find, at times, that no appointments are available. Appointments become available at various times during the day so people should try again later. If anybody with symptoms has concerns about booking a test, they should contact their GP.

As a result of this very high demand, the HSE is prioritising those who are clinically referred and symptomatic close contacts.

It is important to reiterate the public health advice that anybody waiting for a test who has symptoms of Covid-19, should continue to self-isolate until they are at least 48 hours’ symptom free. This should minimize any impact where a person may have to wait a number of days for a test.

The role of testing and contact tracing, as part of the wider public health response, has been under ongoing review throughout the pandemic and will continue to be reviewed and amended in line with the epidemiological profile of the disease, its impact on healthcare utilisation and outcomes, the vaccination status of the population and ECDC guidance. 

Ambulance Service

Questions (131)

Alan Dillon

Question:

131. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to increases in average response times by the National Ambulance Service in the western region; the actions that are planned to increase the resources of the National Ambulance Service in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59471/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Ambulance waiting times for lower acuity, non-life threatening calls have presented a particular challenge recently, including in the NAS West region.  It is the case that the NAS, in line with many other areas of our acute health services, has been seeing an unusually high demand. There are a number of factors currently impacting on the NAS's ability to meet response targets.  These include:  

• An increase of 20% in emergency calls since February of this year;

• Extremely busy hospital EDs, which negatively impact on turnaround times, or the time required to release an ambulance from an ED following patient transport; 

• The depletion of staff resources due to increased levels of sick leave or staff cocooning due to their being a Covid-19 close contact;

• The ongoing need for enhanced COVID-related infection prevention and control measures to ready both staff and vehicle for a new tasking;

As I made clear in the Dáil on 16 November when addressing the Private Members Motion, I am committed to supporting the National Ambulance Service (NAS) in responding to these performance challenges. The unprecedented level of funding allocated both this year and in 2022 will help our ambulance service to address capacity shortfalls and further build on the staffing level increases that have occurred in recent years.

In regard to any actions to address response time performance that the NAS may have for the NAS West region specifically, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly in the matter, as soon as possible.

Care of the Elderly

Questions (132)

Brian Stanley

Question:

132. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health if he will ensure that the day care facilities for the elderly are re-opened once refurbishment works are completed at Abbelyleix Hospital. [59222/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service issue I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospital Facilities

Questions (133)

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

133. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Health when the winning bid for the tender for the Rotunda critical care wing proposal will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59430/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Health Service Executive is responsible for the delivery of public healthcare infrastructure projects, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly in relation to this matter. 

Primary Care Services

Questions (134)

Barry Cowen

Question:

134. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health the number of persons currently waiting for a primary care psychology appointment in each local health office area in CHO8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59251/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Hospital Services

Questions (135)

Brendan Smith

Question:

135. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health the measures that will be implemented to reduce the long delays in orthopaedic assessments and follow-up procedures for patients from counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59423/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last twenty months as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While significant progress was made in reducing waiting times from June 2020 onwards, the surge in Covid-19 cases in the first quarter of 2021 and the associated curtailment of acute hospital services, coupled with the ransomware attack of May 2021, has impacted waiting times.

The current surge in Covid-19 cases has put increasing pressures on hospitals and ICUs. As part of the response to this the HSE advised all Hospital Groups on 18th November, to take a series of immediate actions which include a 14 day period of prioritising unscheduled care, COVID care and time sensitive work in particular in Model 4 hospitals. The situation is to be reviewed after that period.

On the 7th October I published the Acute Waiting List Action Plan. This plan, to run until December 2021, has a series of targeted measures that are designed to address the growth in waiting lists caused by Covid-19 and the cyber-attack. In addition, my Department, the HSE and the NTPF are also working on a Multi Annual Waiting List Plan to bring waiting lists in line with Sláintecare targets over the coming years. This process will be overseen by a Ministerial Taskforce, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and includes representatives from the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund. The plan will be informed by the lessons learned from the successful Vaccine Taskforce.

For 2022 an additional allocation of €250 million, comprised of €200 million to the HSE and €50 million to the National Treatment Purchase Fund has been provided in respect of work to reduce hospital and community waiting lists. The €250 million will be used to fund additional activity in both the public and private sectors. The €50 million additional funding provided to the NTPF brings its total allocation for 2022 to €150 million, and as a consequence there will be a budget of €350 million available to support vital initiatives to improve access to acute hospitals and community health services.

Additionally, the NTPF have advised my department that they have also approved an outpatient orthopaedics initiative for funding at Cavan General Hospital, which will facilitate treatment for 491 patients on orthopaedics waiting lists. 

Health Services

Questions (136, 205)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

136. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health his plans to provide additional financial supports to persons receiving IVF treatment aside from tax relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59255/21]

View answer

David Cullinane

Question:

205. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health his plans regarding expanding access to in-vitro fertilisation and surrogacy services; his plans to expand supports, financial and otherwise, for accessing these services; his plans to advance the assisted human reproduction Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59117/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 205 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, a commitment to “introduce a publicly funded model of care for fertility treatment” is included in the Programme for Government. The model of care for infertility was developed by my officials in conjunction with the HSE’s National Women & Infants Health Programme in order to ensure that infertility issues are addressed through the public health system at the lowest level of clinical intervention necessary.

This model of care comprises three stages, starting in primary care (i.e., GPs) and extending into secondary care (i.e., Regional Fertility Hubs) and then, where necessary, tertiary care (i.e., IVF and other advanced assisted human reproduction (AHR) treatments), with patients being referred onwards through structured pathways.

Phase One of the roll-out of the model of care has involved the establishment, at secondary care level, of Regional Fertility Hubs within maternity networks, in order to facilitate the management of a significant proportion of patients presenting with infertility issues at this level of intervention. The completion of Phase One of the roll-out of the model of care, envisaged before the end of 2022, will result in operational Regional Fertility Hubs in each of the six Hospital Groups across the country.

Phase Two of the roll-out will see the introduction of tertiary infertility services, including IVF, in the public health system, but will not commence until such time as infertility services at secondary level have been developed across the country, required resources have been allocated and the AHR legislation commenced.

Publication of the Bill to regulate the area of AHR is a priority for the Government, and officials in my Department and the Office of the Attorney General will continue to engage intensively over the coming weeks in order to finalise this legislation, which encompasses the regulation for the first time of a wide range of practices undertaken in this jurisdiction, including domestic altruistic surrogacy.

In addition to the support available to patients who access advanced AHR treatment, such as IVF, under the tax relief for medical expenses scheme, a defined list of fertility medicines needed for fertility treatment is covered under the High Tech Arrangements administered by the HSE. Medicines covered by the High Tech Arrangements must be prescribed by a consultant/specialist and authorised for supply to the client’s nominated community pharmacy by the High Tech Hub managed by the Primary Care Reimbursement Service. The cost of the medicines is then covered, as appropriate, under the client’s eligibility, i.e., Medical Card or Drugs Payment Scheme. Given the costs associated with certain fertility medicines, I am aware that these schemes can have a material impact on the total cost of AHR treatment for individuals who avail of them.

The underlying aim of the policy to provide a model of funding for AHR, within the broader AHR regulatory framework, is to improve accessibility to AHR treatments, while at the same time embedding safe and appropriate clinical practice and ensuring the cost-effective use of public resources.

Primary Care Services

Questions (137)

Jennifer Murnane O'Connor

Question:

137. Deputy Jennifer Murnane O'Connor asked the Minister for Health the number of persons currently waiting for a primary care psychology appointment in each local health office area in CHO5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59350/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Mental Health Commission

Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 127.

Questions (138)

Martin Kenny

Question:

138. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Health if he has considered the recommendations in a report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57837/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I and the Government welcome this recent report by the Mental Health Commission (MHC) and recognise the vital role the Commission plays in developing and improving our mental health services overall.

I met with the Commission earlier this month, prior to the report’s publication, and had a constructive discussion on its findings.

The report sets out the various challenges faced by people with mental health difficulties in the criminal justice system. These challenges can often extend beyond the capacity of specialist mental health services and require input from other sectors such as Primary Care, Addiction and Homeless services.

Sharing the Vision, our national mental health policy, is clear that people with mental health difficulties in the criminal justice system should have equal access to mental health services as the general population. Many of the recommendations made in this report are reflected in Sharing the Vision and Sláintecare.  Implementation of Sharing the Vision is being driven by the Independent National Implementation and Monitoring Committee.

Significant new investment has been provided for the development of the National Forensic Mental Health Service n Portrane. Sharing the Vision’s recommendations include the development of Intensive Care Rehabilitation Units and Psychiatric Intensive Care Units nationally and improving diversion to reduce the number of people with mental health difficulties within the criminal justice system. A review of acute bed capacity review for mental health service has commenced and will help to address the capacity issues in our forensic mental health services.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Health participate in a High-Level Interdepartmental Taskforce to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of people in the criminal justice system. It has made considerable progress and has established three expert subgroups on diversion, prison and central mental hospital capacity and community throughcare. The taskforce is currently examining many of the challenges highlighted in the report and the MHC presented the report to the taskforce. The Taskforce aims to provide a high-level implementation plan for its recommendations by early 2022.

Everyone committed to prison is subject to a comprehensive medical assessment by the Prison Healthcare Team, which can include, as appropriate, a mental health assessment. This is used to develop an individual healthcare plan for the person while in custody.

Where necessary, individuals are referred to a forensic clinician or Prison Service Psychologist or both. In-reach mental health services are provided by the HSE’s National Forensic Mental Health Service, involving the provision of weekly forensic mental health sessions. This service is provided in all prisons throughout the country. These are led by Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists, supported by Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors, Community Psychiatric Nurses, and Social Workers.

There has been a progressive programme of expansion of consultant and support posts into the prisons system in recent years. The HSE has also invested in additional Prison In-Reach Teams to address the mental health needs of individuals within prisons, allied to developing a liaison service with the Courts.

The Government remains firmly committed to continuing to improve forensic mental health services. I am acutely conscious of the needs of those in the criminal justice system in terms of access to mental health services.

Question No. 139 answered with Question No. 127.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (140)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

140. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the degree to which he expects he and his Department through the HSE to be in a position to continue to fight the Covid-19 virus including all its variants and at the same time, activate the winter plan fully while maintaining the highest possible level of treatment for elective or urgent patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59365/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

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