Mental health services locally ‘in financial crisis’

‘Already over budget for 2016’

Mental health services in counties Galway and Roscommon are in financial crisis, with the projected budget for this year already exceeded, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show.

  In 2015, the service overspent its budget by around €800,000, and that has continued this year, according to the minutes of recent meetings of the Health Service Executive’s mental health area management team.

  John Canny, the business manager of the Galway Roscommon Mental Health Service, told April’s meeting that the two counties’ health service was “already over (the) projected budget for 2016”.

  John Meehan, the Area Manager, advised the meeting that the “current spend on nursing overtime and agency is not sustainable and cost-containment measures are urgently required and enforced”.

  It was noted that “failure to achieve savings will have negative impact on development of other services in the catchment area”.

  It was also noted that Brian O’Malley, the Acting Area Director of Nursing, was providing a cost-containment plan.

  The minutes added: “All heads of service are asked to look at over cost-containment initiatives within their areas.”

  It was agreed that a number of members of the management team would “meet urgently” to review the situation.

  Contacted about the situation, the HSE said that the “budget deficit” was due to an escalation in the use of nursing overtime and agency staff, as well as associated agency costs providing locum staff.

  “All nursing vacancies are being progressed by the National Recruitment Service,” a spokesperson said. “However, the filling of mental health nursing posts is proving a challenge nationally.

  “In the meantime, nursing overtime and agency staff are being used.

  “An agreement made with the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association in May 2015 resulted in the provision of increased staffing in the acute inpatient unit – GUH with an associated cost of €900,000.”