Policy objectives set over ten years ago for development of community services and services for children have still not been met, the Commission says.
Commenting on the report, Mr John Saunders, Chair of the MHC, said, “We welcome the report and agree that there is a need for a significant increase in funding of mental health services and that funding should be ring fenced and prioritised. There is no question that mental health services have significant resourcing challenges, not least in staffing. However we know that if we are to make any progress in these areas we need funding to achieve that.”
He added: “Additional funding is of course part of the solution. But we need to change how we use funding in order to provide redeveloped mental healthcare services. For example, creative and innovative approaches such as improved team working, building up community services and changing work practices would make a positive impact. We could also look to train mental health support workers to do non-nursing work currently being done by nurses, which would allow for the further development of specialist nursing posts.”
The Commission’s Interim CEO Ms Rosemary Smyth and the Inspector of Mental Health Services Dr Susan Finnerty also welcomed the recommendation that a National Director for Mental Health be reinstated in the HSE. “This is an issue of concern for the MHC and one that we have raised in a number of forums in recent months,” said Ms Smyth.
Commenting on the long-term vision for mental health care services in Ireland and the direction of mental health policy, Mr Saunders added: “The overall approach set out by the Committee is to be welcomed. However, action now needs to be taken. A Vision for Change is Government policy that set out a ten-year plan to shift the delivery of mental health services from the historical, old style institutional care to a more modern community-based service.
“This policy has brought about significant change in mental health services provision in Ireland, but there is a substantial amount left to do, particularly in the areas of community services, staffing and the provision of mental health services to children.
“A Vision for Change was published in 2006 and to this day is only partially implemented. Twelve years on and notwithstanding the need to refresh it, it should be implemented in full. There is now a need for a cohesive approach to achieve it.”
The purpose of the Joint Committee’s work is to achieve cross-party agreement on the implementation of a single, long term vision for mental health care and the direction of mental health policy in Ireland.