The Chief Executive of the Mental Health Commission, John Farrelly, has said there is a "huge perfect storm of unmet needs" facing the sector.

His comments come after a report from the commission indicated that mental health services for older people in Ireland suffering from illnesses such as depression, dementia and anxiety are inadequate and must be urgently improved.

Mr Farrelly also called for a proper commission of investigation into the care of older people.

There is a plan in the Programme for Government for a commission into the care of older people. He said it was time for the Government to "activate this" as a matter of urgency and put a proper strategy in place for the care of older people.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Farrelly said older people are much more fragile and frail and need to be looked after by a full multi-disciplinary team.

But what they are seeing is that in 50% of units, such a team is not available. This was unsafe, he said.

He said there are a lot of people who need specialised care, and that what was outlined in the report was "alarming and also very, very sad and very, very worrying".

Community mental health teams are regarded as pivotal to the delivery of an integrated service, however the report found these services were seriously under-resourced.

"We only have 1.2 acute [mental health] beds per 100,000, compare to six per 100,000 in England," Mr Farrelly said.

"We don't have enough mental health community teams. We don't have enough day hospitals. We only have 50% of the memory clinics that are required, especially for people with dementia.

"So whatever angle you look at it, there's this huge perfect storm of unmet needs."

Asked if pressures on these services have been exacerbated amid Covid-19, the Mental Health Commission chief said credit needed to be given to the HSE in how it has handled it.

He said it needs to be noted that there is a "strategic time bomb" coming where people will suffer.

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Mr Farrelly said there will be a million people in the next 30 years over the age of 60 in Ireland, and 100,000 people with dementia.

"Unless we fix this, there will be real problems in the future for a lot of our population," he warned.

The impact of Covid-19 on older people is also addressed in the Mental Health Commission report.

It has described the rapid transmission of the virus, higher mortality rates, self-isolation, social-distancing and quarantine as "a perfect storm" for the mental health of older people.

It said older people must be provided with more single room accommodation in residential and acute mental health care settings, and adequately staffed community teams and other supports to enable them to stay at home as long as possible.

The report also points out that Ireland has 1.2 dedicated acute mental health beds for older people per 100,000 people, compared with six per 100,000 in England and 9.7 in Northern Ireland.

Mr Farrelly said the report demonstrates that Ireland is not providing an integrated nationwide, comprehensive mental health service for older people.

"Parents, grandparents and older people generally deserve the best care and treatment that this country can provide, but it is clear from this report that we have a lot of work to do," he said.