Social Democrats’ leade,r Holly Cairns TD.

Mental health waiting lists in Cork skyrocket

Newly released figures have revealed a 28-fold increase in child/adolescent primary care psychology waiting-list figures over four years in an area of Cork.

The figures, which were released to Social Democrats’ leader Holly Cairns in response to a parliamentary question, refer to the North Lee HSE catchment which includes Blackpool and Mayfield, as well as Blarney, Cobh and Midleton.

Two separate parliamentary questions found that North Lee’s child/adolescent primary care psychology waiting-list figures increased from 53 in December 2020 to 1,503 in May 2024.

The figures also revealed that waiting list numbers for the South Lee and Kerry catchments increased threefold between December 2020 and May 2024. The South Lee HSE catchment comprises areas including Bishopstown, Mahon, and Douglas, as well as Ballincollig and Carrigaline.

The total number of children/adolescents waiting for primary care psychology in the Cork/Kerry area was now 5,009. Of this figure, 105 have been waiting between four and five years in North Lee (26) and South Lee (79).

When questioned by Deputy Cairns in the Dáil last week on whether these figures reflect a national crisis in primary care psychology or one that is particular to Cork/Kerry, Taoiseach Simon Harris replied: “There seems to be a particular challenge in this region that I do not believe is replicated nationally based on this note.”

Mr Harris was referring to figures provided to him by the HSE indicating that there was a 61% vacancy rate in psychology posts in Cork/Kerry primary care services and a 63% increased referral rate.

Deputy Cairns said: “This is a very worrying development. Such high vacancy levels did not occur overnight. Serious questions must now be asked.”

Ms Cairns asked the Taoiseach what the reasons are behind the recruitment crisis, how it has been allowed to get to this point unchecked, and what efforts have been made by the HSE to address it.

Deputy Cairns has now asked the HSE through parliamentary questions for a breakdown of all recruitment drives in the Cork primary care psychology services from 2020 to 2023 and was informed by Head of Service, Priscilla Lynch that “information relating to national recruitment drives is not held by the local department”.

“Recruitment to the Cork primary care psychology services in the past four years would involve a limited number of posts, and these would have been approved by local senior management, and therefore the details would be accessible to the head of service whether the recruitment was sought through national panels or local interviews,” concluded Deputy Cairns.