Senator Robbie Gallagher says that the HSE has spent over €20m on agency fees to provide mental health services in the first five months of this year. The figure was contained in a reply to a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil. “This is a huge amount of money being spent to plug gaps in services and should it continue at the current rate it will amount to some €48 million – a figure equivalent to more than five percent of the annual budget on mental health. This level of agency spending requires both explanation and urgent attention,” said Senator Gallagher.
“After considerable pressure, the Government committed €15 million of new mental health funding in 2017. However, not one position in the mental health services has yet been filled with that funding and if the current dependence on agency staff continues, the cost will amount to more than three times that €15m. The HSE has acknowledged that agency staff are more costly and subject to greater limitations so this makes no sense. People needing mental health services need to be able to build a relationship with care providers,” he said. “The HSE needs to reduce agency use and meet services need by direct recruitment. As with so many other areas of our mental health services, the level of agency spending is a challenge that requires urgent attention,” he concluded.