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Almost 19,000 referrals to CAMHS were received in 2017 and the HSE expects around 18,830 referrals to be made in 2018.
However, of the approximately 19,000 referrals last year, just 11,286 cases were seen by mental health services. The HSE had anticipated that 14,365 referrals would be seen in 2017.
In May 2017, the Sláintecare Report noted that in August 2016, 170 referred patients were waiting for over 12 months to be seen by CAMHS. By September, some 2,333 were awaiting a first appointment referral, with 317 waiting more than one year, according to HSE data. In some areas, waiting lists for access to care are as long as 18 months.
According to figures supplied to the Medical Independent (MI) by the HSE, some 12 child and adolescent patients travelled abroad for mental health treatment in 2017 under the Treatment Abroad Scheme.
Staffing within CAMHS nationally is at just 52 per cent of the level recommended in A Vision for Change (2006) and an extra 460 posts in CAMHS are required to meet the recommendations of the strategy.
A public consultant paediatric psychiatrist, who spoke to MI on a range of issues affecting CAMHS, highlighted that in some cases there are “adult psychiatrists who have no specific child psychiatry recognition with the Medical Council working with young people”.
Speaking to MI on condition of anonymity, the psychiatrist commented: “The HSE has knowingly employed psychiatrists without appropriate expertise or qualifications in child psychiatry… are parents aware their children are not in fact seen by a specialist?”
It is understood that in certain cases, adult psychiatrists have been hired due to HSE difficulties in recruiting child and adolescent psychiatrists.
Asked by MI how many CAMHS staff have specific training in child and adolescent psychiatry, a HSE spokesperson said: “We do not collect this information nationally.”
MI also queried how many adult psychiatrists are employed in CAMHS. “We do not have ac- cess to this information”, the HSE replied.
President of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and Consultant Psychiatrist Dr John Hillery said that patients are entitled to be seen by a specialist and should only be seen by a non-specialist if supervised by a specialist.
See feature pages 4-6