The Government is strongly committed to developing all aspects of HSE mental health services, including CAMHS, as envisaged in A Vision for Change. Significant progress has been made in recent years, underpinned by additional funding since 2012 to develop mental health services overall, which was reflected by an additional €55 million in budget 2019.
Improvements to various aspects of CAMHS are delivered by the HSE under its agreed service plans.
CAMHS have standardised operational procedures to support timely access to services, which is based on professional clinical assessment to address the mental health needs of all children presenting to this specialist service. Despite increasing demands overall on CAMHS, individual cases that are assessed as urgent receive priority, irrespective of the source of referrals.
At present, there is an acknowledged shortage of consultant psychiatrists and allied mental health professionals, including CAMHS. This, rather than funding availability, is the main difficulty facing the HSE, but steady progress has been made in recent years in filling the type of posts needed to modernise the service. There are approximately 600 whole-time equivalent posts approved for CAMHS.
In January 2019, there were a total of 222 CAMHS posts with the HSE national recruitment service at various stages of recruitment. The latest available data from the HSE personnel census indicate that consultant posts have increased nationally by approximately 14 in the past year.
In conjunction with the Department of Health and the HSE, I am progressing various initiatives to enhance CAMHS by alleviating pressures on the specialist CAMHS service. These include maximising the impact of primary care assistant psychologists recruited in 2018 to relieve pressures on CAMHS, the roll-out by the HSE of various e-mental health pilot projects; additional mental health nurse training places coming on stream to help fill existing vacancies, and a review of CAMHS under the refresh of A Vision for Change.
There is also regular monitoring of CAMHS activity and staffing data. In addition, I have held meetings with, and recently sought further information from, the chief officers and executive clinical directors of the community healthcare organisations of the HSE, specifically on CAMHS vacancies. I have received more detailed information from the HSE in respect of this question, which I will furnish directly to the Deputy.