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 Header Item Hospital Services (Continued)
 Header Item Mental Health Policy
 Header Item Health Services Funding

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 911 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris]  There has been significant investment. As I acknowledged at the outset, a lot of effort has been put into this hospital in terms of addressing a number of issues over the past number of years. I have no intention of stating anything other than the factual position. There is still a substantial body of work to be done. There are still conversations that need to be had at a clinical level in terms of what services can be provided and in what hospital within the hospital group. That work is ongoing. What I can assure the Deputy and the people of Portlaoise today is that all of this will happen in an orderly and planned manner and that people will be kept informed of any developments.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming Will the Minister send me a copy of what he did not get an opportunity to read on the record?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris It is a breakdown of the 65 posts. I will send that to the Deputy.

Mental Health Policy

 10. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his role in formulating the mental health policy to be implemented in schools; and how he has co-operated with other relevant Departments in this regard to ensure the provision of best practice and adequate funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13716/16]

Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee I thank Deputy Stanley for putting forward this question with regard to mental health promotion and policy and how it will be implemented in schools. I presume Deputy Louise O'Reilly will respond in his stead.

  Back in 2013, the Department of Education and Skills, the HSE, and the Department of Health jointly developed Well-Being in Post Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention. This was followed in 2015 by the publication of guidelines setting out a framework for mental health promotion in primary schools. Supporting schools to implement the guidelines involves a great number of agencies of the Department of Education and Skills and health promotion officers within the HSE. In addition, the Department of Education and Skills recently revised the Responding to Critical Incidents Guidelines and Resource Material.

  In 2015, the Government launched Connecting for Life, Ireland's national strategy to reduce suicide. The aim is to reduce suicide and self-harm. We are looking at the figures from 2015 to 2020. The strategy clearly sets out a vision where fewer lives are lost through suicide and, most importantly, in which communities and individuals are empowered and given the ability to improve their own mental health and mental well-being. It provides a community-based organisation with guidelines, protocols and training on effective suicide prevention. It is so important that we equip ourselves with the ability to deal with everyday stresses and everyday life. Most importantly, education is key. It is important that we have a constant and direct link between the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and my own Department of Health.

  One of the main goals in Connecting for Life is to target approaches to reduce suicidal behaviour and improve mental health among priority groups, most specifically among young people. The best way to reach our young people is through education and within our schools. There are several key actions which have been identified to further this goal. I will not go through them all but they are there. They are part of the overall policy objectives of the Department of Education and Skills. They are supported by my Department and the HSE through the inter-agency implementation arrangements provided for in Connecting for Life and are overseen by the Cabinet committee on social policy and public service reform.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly It is in the programme for Government that a wellness class will be added to the junior certificate cycle. That is to be welcomed. I share the Minister of State's views on the need to address issues of mental health and, more importantly, mental health well-being at the earliest possible stage. Has this been agreed with the people who will be delivering it, namely, teachers at the front line? If it has been agreed, when are we going to see the first wellness class as part of the junior certificate cycle take place? Has the Minister of State given any thought to the programme run by Pieta House? I think it is called "school resilience". I believe it to be a very good model, particularly with regard to young people. Specifically, we want to know when the first wellness class for a junior cycle student will take place.

Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee Unfortunately, I cannot give the Deputy a set timeline for that. I spoke to the Minister for Education and Skills only yesterday on this issue. Essentially, what it means is that over a three year period up to the junior certificate, students will have to partake in 400 hours of wellness classes across a variety of different sections.

With regard to school resilience and Pieta House, at the moment Connecting for Life has a strong youth element to it. There is a pathfinder project set out to implement the youth aspect of it. What I will be introducing in the next 100 days on top of that is a youth mental health task force that will build on the pathfinder project and specifically focus on education at an early stage. The problem that we face is that many mental health problems manifest themselves much earlier than we feel comfortable talking about. We need to implement some sort of educational programme at a primary school level. There will also be a second dimension to that task force which will involve non-political, non-departmental individuals who are currently working and have a keen interest in advancing our services. Programmes, such as the school resilience programme, will be taking from what is best practice, what is out there and how we can best implement it together.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly It does not sound like much of a priority if the Minister of State cannot even give us a date. It should be a priority and one that is accompanied by identifiable targets, dates, times, etc. We welcome the task force on youth mental health. Will the Minister of State give us some insight into the individuals who will be involved? The plan is that it will be established within 100 days. That is very much to be welcomed. We would like to know who is going to be on the task force.

To go back to my earlier question on the junior certificate cycle, is there agreement? We all know that there are issues around the junior certificate cycle with the people who are delivering it. Has this been agreed with teachers directly?

Deputy Helen McEntee: Information on Helen McEntee Zoom on Helen McEntee Unfortunately, as this is specifically within the Department of Education and Skills, I cannot give that information to the Deputy. However, I will give her a commitment that I will speak to the Minister of Education and Skills. As far as I am concerned, it is at an advanced stage. We should see it being implemented soon.

With regard to the specific individuals on the task force outside of the Department and the political sphere, I cannot give the Deputy the names because I do not have all of the names. They do not know themselves. That is a work in progress. The specific Departments that are going to be working with the taskforce will be the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and our own Department. I have spoken to both Ministers in that regard and both of them are very much on board and their staff are willing to work with us on a continuous basis in order that it is a priority. This is something that will be worked on every week with all three Departments.

Health Services Funding

 11. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris his progress, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, in securing funding to complete episodes of scheduled care commenced in 2015; the amount of funding required to complete these episodes; how many episodes of care are outstanding for 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13695/16]

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris In January 2015, my predecessor introduced maximum permissible waiting times for inpatient and day case treatment and outpatient appointments of 18 months by 30 June and 15 months by year end. As the House will know, additional funding of €51 million was approved in 2015 to maximise capacity across public and voluntary hospitals as well as outsourcing activity where capacity was not available to meet patient needs. HSE figures for the end of December 2015 show 95% achievement for inpatient and day case waiting lists and 93% achievement for outpatient waiting lists against the 15 month maximum wait time.

  The HSE has advised that €28 million of the funding provided was utilised in 2015. Expenditure on this initiative has continued into 2016 in respect of those patients who had been referred for appointments in the latter part of 2015, as well as those who had commenced treatment which could not be completed before year end.

  In addition to the almost 40,500 patients who have already been treated under the 2015 initiative, there are currently 700 patients who are in the process of completing their episodes of care. The HSE has provided assurances that all episodes of care are to be completed by 20 June and that all treatment providers have been apprised of this deadline. Final expenditure on this initiative will be available after the end of this month, once all episodes of care have been delivered.

  The outcomes of this initiative will inform the implementation of the programme for partnership Government commitment to provide €50 million per year to reduce waiting lists, including a sum of €15 million for the National Treatment Purchase Fund. I will be considering in the context of budget 2017 how best to utilise that €50 million, inclusive of the €15 million, to tackle waiting lists. I will await the end of this period of care at the end of the month in terms of how to best evaluate that.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly The National Treatment Purchase Fund is simply code for privatising a problem. We do not support that. We support investment in our public health service. There is €50 million of continued investment - that is it how it is termed - per year and yet the ministerial brief given to the Minister advises that there was only €28 million of funding spent in 2015. There is clearly a deficit in those figures. Was this primary funding or additional funding?

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