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Speaking at the launch of the Organisation’s pre-budget submission in Dublin, Dr Duddy said “if we were to identify one priority area in mental health, I think it would be in the child and adolescent mental health service”.
The IMO wants to see a new mental health strategy which has a detailed implementation plan and ring-fenced resources, said Dr Duddy. The IMO President also referred to increasing problems for GPs trying to access psychology and counselling services in the community.
“GPs are often unfairly criticised for over-prescribing drug or chemical treatments for mental illnesses –that is because the other treatment methods are not available to them in the community and we would like to see more access to psychological services for GPs.”
The IMO has set out eight priorities for Budget 2017, namely negotiation of a “new fit-for-purpose” GP contract; reversal of the FEMPI cuts inflicted on general practice; immediate and significant increase in number of acute beds in the public system; funding for the NTPF to be diverted to support elective care in the public system; appropriate resources for mental health; investment in public health capacity; introduction of – or increase in – taxes on sugar sweetened drinks, alcohol and tobacco; an end to prescription charges and reduction of OOP payments for drugs.
Provision of tax relief for graduate-entry medicine loans and full implementation of the MacCraith report also feature in the submission.
Meanwhile, also this afternoon, the Oireachtas Group on Mental Health has called on the Government to significantly increase funding for mental health in Budget 2017. There is “strong consensus” among the Oireachtas Group on the need for ring-fenced funding of €37.5 million in 2017 for the “continued development of community mental health services”.
Between 2014 and 2015, the number of referrals for the Counselling in Primary Care Service increased by 18 per cent from 14,407 to 17,000. In child and adolescent mental health services, the number of referrals grew by more than 50 per cent between 2011 and 2014.
Despite this doubling in demand, staffing levels in child and mental health services have remained critically low over recent years. In December 2015, just over half of the recommended staffing were in post across child and adolescent mental health services.