Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
314. Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will address the serious shortcomings in the psychological services in the mid-western region; if he will meet the recommendations of the joint review group in relation to the commitment to bring the number of training places up to 50 a year, the establishment of director posts in each health board, the establishment of principal posts in each community care area and a significant reduction in the number of vacancies in the psychological services in the medium term review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14343/03]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Following the publication of the report of the joint review group on psychological services in the health services in March 2002, a major priority for my Department was to promote an integrated and co-ordinated approach by the health boards to its implementation over time. This applied in particular to the major recommendations of the report relating to the organisation and management of psychology services, entailing substantial increases in the number of principal and director level psychologist posts.
Given the key role of the health boards executive in fostering collective working and progressing organisational change and development in the health service, my Department secured the agreement of the executive to work with the directors of human resources in the health boards towards the implementation of the recommendations of the report. The present position is that the directors of human resources are in the process of individually considering the recommendations contained in the report and how their boards might propose to proceed with the implementation process in due course. This work is being undertaken in light of service imperatives, funding priorities and the budget 2003 announcement on public service numbers. In this context, it is important to bear in mind that the overall budgetary and economic position in 2003 has had important implications for all aspects of public spending and this is reflected in the Estimates and budget adopted by Government for 2003.
Given these constraints my Department, together with the directors of human resources in the health boards, is prioritising support for the implementation of a key recommendation of the joint review report relating to human resource planning through the provision of a substantial number of additional post-graduate training places in clinical psychology. This has resulted in a threefold increase since end-1999, from 26 to 83, in the number of student clinical psychologists employed in the health services. This development, in enhancing graduate output, will help maintain an improved balance between demand and supply in human resource and service provision.
My Department remains committed to working on an ongoing basis with health agencies, educational providers and the education authorities to ensure adequate provision of training places in clinical psychology, consistent with the medium-term human resource requirements of the health services and the important recommendations on investment in training and education detailed in the action plan for people management published in November 2002. A particular priority is to secure the best return, in terms of graduate output, on the significant financial resources currently being invested in the health services to support postgraduate clinical psychology training. Consequently, my Department, together with the health boards' directors of human resources, is examining the current model for post-graduate  psychology training with the objective of supporting training provision on a planned and sustainable medium-term basis.
Responsibility for human resource planning, including the monitoring and filling of psychologist posts, in the mid-west region rests with the chief executive officer of the Mid-Western Health Board. The chief executive officer, in managing the workforce in his region, is responsible for determining the appropriate staffing mix and the precise grades of staff to be employed in line with service plan priorities, subject to overall employment levels remaining within the approved regional employment ceiling. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.
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