Consultant psychiatrists's experience of the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on mental health services in Ireland

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Kelleher, Eric
Geary, Eoin
Tawfik, Mary
Ní Mhuircheartaigh, Eimear
Gavin, Blánaid
Wall, Mary
Lyne, John
Doherty, Anne M.
McNicholas, Fiona
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Cambridge University Press
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Objectives: The novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has spread worldwide threatening human health. To reduce transmission, a ‘lockdown’ was introduced in Ireland between March-May 2020. The aim of this study is to capture the experiences of Consultant Psychiatrists during lockdown and their perception of its impact on Mental Health Services. Methods: A questionnaire designed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists was adapted and circulated to Consultant members of the College of Psychiatrists following the easing of restrictions. The questionnaire assessed the perceived impact on referral rates, mental health act provision, availability of Information Technology (IT), consultant well-being and availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Thematic analysis was employed to analyse free-text sections. Results: Response rate was 32% (N=197/623). Consultants reported an initial decrease/significant decrease in referrals in the first month of lockdown (68%, N=95/140) followed by an increase/significant increase in the second month for both new (83%, N=100/137) and previously attending patients (65%, N=88/136). Social isolation and reduced face-to-face mental health supports were among the main reasons identified. The needs of children and older adults were highlighted. Most consultants (76%, N=98/129) felt their working day was affected and their well-being reduced (52%, N=61/119). The majority felt IT equipment availability was inadequate (67%, N=88/132). Main themes identified from free-text sections were service management, relationship between patients and healthcare service and effects on consultants’ lives. Conclusions: The COVID19 pandemic has placed increased pressure on service provision and consultant wellness. This further supports the longstanding need to increase mental health service investment in Ireland.
Covid19 , Mental health , Consultant experience
Kelleher, E., Geary, E., Tawfik, M., Ní­ Mhuircheartaigh, E., Gavin, B., Wall, M., Lyne, J., Doherty, A. M. and McNicholas, F. (2021) 'Consultant psychiatrists's experience of the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on mental health services in Ireland', Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. doi: 10.1017/ipm.2021.41
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