An increase in training places for clinical psychologists has been hailed as a boost to under-pressure mental health services at time of high demand.
Health Minister Robin Swann yesterday announced the commissioning of four additional training places on the postgraduate Doctorate in Clinical Psychology programme. Psychologists play a key role in providing mental health services and have provided essential support during the Covid-19 crisis.
The expansion in training places, delivered through Queen's University Belfast, will increase the annual intake from 15 places last year to 19 places this year.
Mr Swann said: "As we look to transform mental health services in Northern Ireland through the implementation of the Mental Health Action Plan and development of a new Mental Health Strategy, it will be vital to ensure that we have the right mix of skills and professions to create a first class mental health service that meets the needs of our community.
"Increasing psychology training places is a key step forward."
Mr Swann said the Mental Health Action Plan kick-starts the transformation of mental health services.
Professor Aidan Feeney, deputy head of school and director of education for postgraduate taught programmes in the School of Psychology at Queen's University, said: "We welcome the increase in training places on the postgraduate Doctorate in Clinical Psychology programme at Queen's.
"Psychologists continue to play a crucial role in dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on mental health in Northern Ireland, and this is a great step forward in supporting mental health services and our community."
Sinn Fein MLA Orlaithi Flynn said: "Mental health services are under increasing pressure and the real demand for services is simply not being met."