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Children's health

26th Jan 2022

46 children suffered “significant harm” in Kerry mental health service

Sarah McKenna Barry

A hotline for the affected families has since been set up.

A review into the HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) has found that 46 children suffered “significant harm” while attending the service in South Kerry.

As RTÉ reports, over 1,300 children attended the CAMHS unit and 227 of them were “exposed to the risk of serious harm” due to the diagnosis and treatment by one junior doctor.

It’s understood that there was no system in place to oversee medication prescription or the junior doctor’s quality of service.

The 46 children experienced “considerable” weight gain, sedation during the day and elevated blood pressure. The 227 children were at risk of sedation, growth disturbance, emotional and cognitive blunting, “serious” weight changes, psychological distress and metabolic and endocrinal disturbance.

The review into the South Kerry CAMHS began last April after concerns were raised about the junior doctor, who the report says, lacked knowledge about “the best way to do things”.

The report determined that the first reports of concern regarding the junior doctor were made in 2018, but there is no proof that these concerns were actually addressed.

The doctor was said to be very tired at work, and worked overtime.

Further concerns about the doctor’s prescribing of medication were raised the following year, and while a supervisor advised changes, they did not insist that these changes happened.

The review, which covered the period from 1 July 2016 to 19 April 2021, found that supervision was a major issue in the unit, as well as a lack of checks ensuring that it was running safely and effectively. There was no clinical lead and no consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, which in turn impacted the quality of service being provided.

The HSE has published the report about the South Kerry CAMHS and it has been sent to the families of the children involved. Letters of apologies have also been sent.

The HSE is currently operating a hotline for the affected families on 1800 742 800. The phone line is open 8am to 8pm every day.