The President of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association has said the new national plan for mental health contains many good things but 'Sharing the Vision' fails to address the critical staffing issues in the services.

Dr Donal O'Hanlon said the previous initiative, 'A Vision for Change', while never fully implemented, gave a clear road map of the resources needed to provide a modern community-based mental health service.

He told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that in old age psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry only 50% per cent of the staff needed were put in place.

"We have never had the staff to provide a comprehensive service," he said.

Dr O'Hanlon said that staffing levels now are lower than in 2008, with a higher population and a serious lack of consultant psychiatrists.

He said the Hanly report on medical staffing in 2003 recommended that by 2016 there would be 712 consultant posts in place.

However, Dr O'Hanlon said there are now only 492 posts with just 440 filled due to "the lack of proper resources to do the job properly" and the 30% pay cut introduced for new entrants.

He said the 'Sharing the Vision' plan is not as clear as 'Vision for Change' on the resources, both people and facilities, needed to provide a comprehensive service.

Dr O'Hanlon said it has no clear recommendations on inpatient capacity but instead a promise of a further review.

He said there are also no clear plans about how to address the fact that the services the public need vary greatly depending on where you need.

Dr O'Hanlon said that while the plan notes the low number of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) beds, there is no clear recommendation about what is needed to prevent children and adolescents from being admitted to adult psychiatric hospitals.


Read more:
Implementation key to mental health policy
Mental health policy to be implemented 'in due course'


He said there is a place for online services but most mental health interventions take time and online supports are not a substitute for face-to-face interviews.

Also speaking on Morning Ireland, the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People said the new plan "isn't a panacea" to all the problems in mental health, but is an ambition about where Ireland wants to go.

Jim Daly said that 'Sharing the Vision' is recovery and outcome focused.

The minister said the plan is "more real when it looks at outcomes and measuring outcomes and seeing what we are achieving - rather than looking at inputs".

He said it is emphasising early intervention, awareness, promoting prevention and preventing the escalation of mental health difficulties.

He said a new 24/7 text line for mental health support is now available as well as a 24-hour national helpline for ambulance services.

The text number is 50808 and the helpline number is 1800 111 888.