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Psychiatric nurses to be balloted for industrial action

The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) has announced that it will ballot members for industrial action over the Health Service Executive’s recruitment embargo.

The union has accused the HSE of refusing to exempt mental health services from the hiring freeze that was imposed in November 2023.

The PNA said the ballot for industrial action, up to and including strike, reflects the frustration of members at a recent HSE memo announcing derogations to the recruitment embargo that did not include mental health services.

“There are over 700 vacancies in the mental health services, which is seriously impacting on the delivery of care, the depletion of frontline services and the inability to develop services,” said PNA General Secretary Peter Hughes.

“The provision of basic psychiatric services throughout the country, including Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services is reliant on both overtime and agency.”

“This is becoming unsustainable, and there is mounting concern that the current situation will ultimately result in the closure of services,” Mr Hughes said.

“It is essential that the recruitment of psychiatric/mental health nurses is exempt from the recruitment freeze, as a matter of urgency,” he added.

The PNA said there are examples of services that remain closed as a direct result of a lack of staff.

The union also said that it has been informed that closures of some community services are imminent in order for managers to prioritise inpatient approved centres and 24-hour community services.

The HSE said that since the introduction of the recruitment freeze, derogations have been approved within mental health services.

A spokesperson said there has been an increase in the number of psychiatric nurses employed in the first quarter of this year, despite the recruitment pause.

“The HSE has also committed to offering 2024 graduate psychiatric nurses a position with the HSE, (where such a staff nurse vacancy arises), as we have done in each of the last four years,” the spokesperson said.

“We have recently met with the PNA and will continue to engage with them on any concerns they may have,” the HSE said.

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