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Commenting on the figure, Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Prof Brendan Kelly said there are real problems in recruiting and retaining consultants.
Prof Kelly, Consultant Psychiatrist at Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, said that around two consultants quit every month and that recruitment in psychiatry is especially challenging.
“Nationally, around two consultants quit every month, whereas in the past, leaving a consultant post was essentially unheard of,” he said. “The effect of these vacancies is amplified by other vacancies in the mental health service: There are, for example, over 80 unfilled posts across mental health services for children and adolescents (nurses and other professionals).
“So, in addition to problems recruiting and retaining consultants in particular, there are broader issues about building a health service in which all professionals want to work.”
A HSE spokesperson said that at any one time the Mental Health Division can have overall consultant vacancy rates of 18 per cent. “For some CHOs [Community Healthcare Organisations], consultant vacancies were up to 31 per cent (CHO 5). Some sub-specialties present even more challenges where, for example, in CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] in one CHO there are 50 per cent vacancies,” a HSE spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said that the level of psychiatry vacancies reflects the employment market conditions.
“Medical staff, including psychiatrists, operate in an international labour market and will work where terms and conditions are most attractive to their circumstances. Of all posts advertised in the last two years, only half have been filled due to lack of applicants or lack of appropriate qualifications for posts which require more specialist qualifications, eg, CAMHS, MHID [Mental Health Intellectual Disability] or because candidates refuse the post or withdraw from the recruitment process.
“In general terms, there are few waiting lists for general adult mental health services but the shortage of and vacancies in CAMHS does have an adverse impact on wait times for these services.”