Northern Ireland news

Failure to restore Stormont institutions is stalling mental health strategy rollout, psychiatrists warn

Chair of RCPsych NI Dr Richard Wilson

A failure to refusal to restore the Stormont institutions is frustrating efforts to improve regional mental health services, psychiatrists have warned.

A new mental health strategy published a year ago set out the future of services over the next decade and identified the requirement for £1.2bn of funding over a corresponding period.

The strategy was launched with a warning from Health Minister Robin Swann that the Covid pandemic would "result in up to 32 per cent more referrals over the next three years".

However, with no executive in place there can be no approval of the funding, meaning rollout of the strategy has stalled.

The deteriorating situation has prompted leading psychiatrists' group to highlight the need for a political breakthrough. However, earlier this week DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party had yet to agree a timetable for returning to the executive, as he noted that the British government's protocol legislation could take "months" to pass through Westminster.

Dr Richard Wilson, chair of RCPsych NI, said it was "not sustainable" to have no sitting government to approve important decisions around the future of mental health services.

“As doctors working on the frontline, we’re already seeing an increase in patients seeking help for mental health conditions, especially because of the pandemic," he said.

“We worked with the Department for Health and other stakeholders to come up with a strategy that put our patients at its core – it’s disappointing that these plans are stalled because of the lack of a sitting government in Stormont."

Dr Wilson said the psychiatrists' patients "desperately" needed funding for the strategy to be approved.

"We need a collective effort for the benefit of everyone’s mental health in Northern Ireland," he said.

RCPsych NI said the funding package included provision was for an increase in funding for Camhs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and additional money for carers, families and other support services.

* This article was amended on June 16 2022

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