The current shortage of nurses in mental health services is growing while demand  in all aspects of  services increases the General Secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) told the union's 48 th Annual Delegate Conference meeting in Wexford today  (Thursday 2 nd May.)

PNA General Secretary, Peter Hughes said the recruitment and retention crisis shows no signs of easing with emigration of psychiatric nursing graduates, the attraction of better pay and conditions in the private sector and a prospect of 34% of psychiatric nurses retiring by 2021 all adding to the crisis. 

‘Even now the HSE solution to the crisis has been to impose an embargo on all recruitment from April. This move is only adding to the staffing crisis and I am calling on the HSE to immediately introduce derogation from this embargo for mental health and intellectual disability services'

Mr Hughes said the near collapse of mental health services in some parts of the country during the recent PNA ban on overtime highlighted the reliance of the services on overtime and agency staff, and the lack of staff throughout the system.

‘This situation must end and highlights the urgency in concluding the negotiations on the settlement of the recent nurses' dispute.  The lethargy shown in bringing these negotiations to a conclusion is itself an indication of the government's lack of urgency in solving the staffing crisis in nursing and moving on to invest and develop services to meet the growing demand for mental health services.'

Mr Hughes said the staffing of the new National Forensic Mental Health Services in Portrane, which will be completed by the end of this year, will be a major challenge in the context of a recruitment crisis and will require major initiatives in order to attract staff to work in the new facility

‘This transfer of services is by far the biggest for mental health services in the history of the state. It will bring with it many challenges and opportunities and the biggest challenge will be staffing as the additional 74 beds will require approximately 200 additional nurses.'

‘PNA will not be wanting in meeting these challenges, but it will require concerted agreement on finally addressing the issues underlying the recruitment and retention crisis.'

Referring to the on-going industrial action by the ambulance personnel branch of the PNA in pursuit of their right to join, and be represented by the union of their choice, Mr Hughes told the Conference that the resolve and determination of ambulance members remains strong and PNA will continue this campaign until its members are permitted to be represented by the PNA.

‘The intransigent position of the HSE in relation to this dispute is an affront not only to our ambulance personnel members but to all PNA members, and it should be an affront to all trade unionists in this country. It is time we heard from other trade unions in support of our ambulance personnel and the determined and courageous stand they have taken in defence of a basic worker and trade union demand.'

‘At a time when trade union membership is now not an option for workers in many sectors of the economy we can be proud of the PNA's and NASRA's stand in support of basic trade union rights for  highly professional and dedicated front line emergency health workers. Nothing less is acceptable.'

Mr Hughes said despite repeated assurance from the HSE and government, the inadequacies and underinvestment in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are continuing with severe consequences for staff, service users and families up and down the country.

  • There is now a shortfall of 12 Day Hospitals with the closure of Linn Dara day hospital.
  • Only 66 of the recommended 100 beds in Vision for Change are operational.
  • The multidisciplinary teams remain inadequately resourced.
  • Waiting lists for first time assessments are over 2,500
  • There were 81 Admissions of Children to Adult Psychiatric Units in 2018.

Mr Hughes dismissed the proposal of Minster of State with responsibility for Mental Health, Jim Daly T.D for the introduction of tele-assessments where children would be assessed a remotely online by a psychiatrist

‘Can I say to Minister Daly, that the assessment of mental health problems does not lend itself in any way to this impersonal approach. People with mental health problems need assessment on a direct one to one interpersonal basis. I call on the Minister to abandon this inappropriate solution to a staffing crisis and introduce meaningful measures to attract staff to the services.'

Media contact: Derek Cunningham 086-2430535

Upcoming events


Horatio - European Psychiatric Nurses and the Swedish Association of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurses are delighted to invite you to attend the Horatio congress, 15-16 May 2024 in Malmö, Sweden.

Event Date 15-05-2024 1:00 am
Event End Date 16-05-2024 11:30 pm
Cut off date 01-02-2024 11:30 am