Greens warn of ‘mental health timebomb’ as staffing problems laid bare

1st February 2018

Oireachtas Mental Health Committee hears that 34% of mental health nurses eligible for retirement in the next 5 years 

The Green Party today warned of a ‘mental health timebomb’, after it was revealed to the Oireachtas Mental Health Committee that 34% of psychiatric and mental health nurses are eligible for retirement within 5 years. The stark figures come amid continued difficulty in attracting healthcare professionals.

Other figures outlined in the Committee show:

  • There are close to 500 vacancies for mental health nurses in Ireland at the moment.
  • 867 psychiatric nurses are eligible for immediate retirement, and a further 885 are eligible in the next 5 years. That’s 34% of the 4748 workforce.
  • Only 93 mental health nurses were recruited last year up to August 2017, despite the HSE’s own admission that 1,963 staff need to be recruited for staffing levels set out in A Vision For Change to be realised.
  • 1,343 nurses and midwives sought “certificates of current professional status” in 2017, documents which verify their qualifications and are sought by nurses when they intend to work overseas
  • The UK have put in place a relocation package worth €8,000 euro for overseas nurses, while the HSE’s ‘Bring Them Home” campaign offers €1,500.

Reacting to the figures, Green Party Deputy Leader Catherine Martin TD said: “We’re all aware of the difficulties the Government is experiencing recruiting young entrants to vital public services, such as teachers, nurses, and doctors, but the figures coming out of the Mental Health Committee are extremely concerning.

“With 34% of the mental health workforce eligible for retirement within 5 years, the Government are facing a mental health timebomb if efforts to recruit new entrants continue to fail. The fact that, with almost 500 vacancies in psychiatric nursing in Ireland, 1,343 trained nurses and midwives sought “certificates of current professional status” to verify their qualifications for working overseas, is extremely concerning, and needs to be seriously looked at.

“The challenges in recruitment are not all pay-related, but it is clear that there is a significant issue there. Nurses relocating to the UK receive an €8,000 relocating fee, while nurses relocating to Ireland receive just €1,500. In addition, new entrants to nursing in Ireland have lower starting salaries than most comparable English-speaking countries. The Government must make Ireland an attractive place to live and work for healthcare workers, or the general public will suffer significant deterioration of vital services.”

Further info:

The submission from Peter Hughes, General Secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association, can be found here.