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Peter Hughes
General Secretary

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Vital mental health services ‘being denied’ amid 700 nursing staff vacancies

Seven hundred mental health nursing vacancies throughout the country, Psychiatric Nurses Association survey finds

There are 700 mental health nursing staff vacancies in mental health services throughout the country, a national survey by the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) has found.

Sixty beds remain unopened at the new National Forensic Mental Health Service (NFMHS) in Portrane, Co Dublin, because of a lack of staff to open all 170 beds and services there, Peter Hughes, general secretary of the association, told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.

The survey, done through PNA branches in the past month, indicated the staff recruitment and retention crisis was now having an impact on services in every part of the country, he said.

Mr Hughes called for an accelerated recruitment process, a financial inducement to encourage Irish nurses working abroad to return and accommodation subsidies in urban areas.The recruitment process in the HSE can take between three to six months he said. When asked why, Mr Hughes said he did not know but that it appeared applications had “to go through so many departments” and “across so many desks”.

Mr Hughes pointed out staffing shortages had already resulted in the protracted closure of the Linn Dara Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services at Cherry Orchard Hospital, Dublin, and the closure of the 16-bed subacute unit in the St James’s Hospital psychiatric unit.

“With the full extent of mental health nursing vacancies revealed in our survey, PNA now have a very real concern that this situation will result in further bed closures and curtailment in services,” he said.

“St James’s, Linn Dara and the NFMHS are simply the most visible examples of the impacts that nursing shortages are having on mental health services right across the country. We are now seeing the knock-on effects of bed closures on services as the system tries to cope with a steady exodus of staff and the growing number of staffing vacancies at every level.

“It is totally unacceptable that nursing vacancies have been allowed to increase to such an extent that beds are being closed and vital services are being denied to the communities involved,” Mr Hughes added.

The PNA figures show there are currently 85 nursing vacancies in St Joseph’s Mental Health Intellectual Disability Services at Portrane Hospital, 66 in St Lomans/Tallaght Dublin and already 25 in the recently opened forensic mental health service in Portrane.

The survey also finds there are 60 vacancies throughout Cork, more than 40 vacancies in the Galway mental health services and 30 vacancies in Louth/Meath services.

“We are witnessing an exodus of nurses and graduates from our mental health services to pursue opportunities abroad, and yet there seems to be no urgency on the part of management to understand why this is happening,” Mr Hughes said.

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