HSE recruitment embargo ‘seriously impacting’ services, psychiatric nurses say

More than 700 vacancies leaves sector unable to fill gaps through overtime or agency staff, nurses’ body says

The HSE recruitment embargo is “seriously impacting” services, the general secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association has said.

Peter Hughes told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland the current situation, with more than 700 vacancies, was “not sustainable” and that reliance on overtime and agency staff could not meet the increase in demand for services.

We conducted a survey last month of our branches, and it showed that we had over 700 vacancies in the system. And we just think it’s totally inconceivable that they are imposing a recruitment embargo at a time of such an amount of vacancies, which is seriously impacting on the delivery of services, hugely reliant on overtime and agencies to maintain very basic services and are not able to develop services for them,” he said.

Mr Hughes acknowledged the HSE was hiring graduate nurses but said clinical posts such as specialist clinical nurse managers were not being filled and this was impacting governance and safety of services. The current HSE recruitment embargo has led to curtailment and closure of services, he added.

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“We don’t have the staff to open the new 20-bed Camhs unit in the children’s hospital. We have 58 vacant beds out in the new forensic services.

“It’s having a huge impact on services. Our members are very, very frustrated at and fed up with continuously holding services together with minimal resources. And the reliance on a member’s goodwill to ensure services are provided is at a critical point,” Mr Hughes said.

“It’s not sustainable if we are to meet the growing needs and demand for mental health services. And certainly it’s not a situation we will tolerate for much longer.”

Mr Hughes said he could not rule out industrial action when asked what actions would be taken by the association, which is holding its annual conference today.

Staffing shortages are having a major impact on the provision of child and adolescent mental health service, he said. There should be 100 beds in the country for children and adolescents, but at present there are only 42 operational beds.

Mr Hughes pointed out that two years ago 11 beds were closed at the Linn Dara unit in Cherry Orchard. At the time, assurances were made that the beds would reopen within four months, but that had not happened.

“There appears to be no prospect whatsoever of those beds opening. The Linn Dara service has a 45 per cent vacancy rate. And throughout the country a lot of our services have 20 to 30 per cent vacancy rate.”

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