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Mental Health Report ‘an indictment of failing system’ – Buckley

20 June, 2019 - by Pat Buckley TD

Sinn Féin Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has described the newly published Mental Health Commission Report as “a damning indictment of the failures of the system to meet people’s needs and protect their rights”.

Teachta Buckley was responding to the findings of the Mental Health Commission's Annual Report for 2018 released today which found a “significant governance and management deficit” within Irish mental health services.

The Cork East TD said;

“Every day, we hear stories from families who are being let down by gaps in our services. A lack of community and after hours care and support has left countless people in serious distress and danger. We have understaffed, underfunded, and under resourced units across the state which despite the best efforts of frontline staff are not providing adequate care and protecting patient’s rights.

“This report delves into the realities on the ground in mental health units across the state. The findings are damning and should be seen as a call to action for the government, the Minister, and the HSE. It did find that there has been an increase of 3% in the number of units which met an ‘Excellent’ grade, but this still represented less than a third of units.

“The Inspector’s report highlights hygiene as one major issue; 70% of units are dirty, smelly and poorly maintained. I would argue that this is largely due to a desire by the HSE and government to outsource maintenance and hygiene services to outside private contractors. The report found these conditions unacceptable and a risk to infection control, as well as harmful to the dignity of patients.

“Staffing was another problem highlighted by the report. Just 9% of units were compliant with staffing, with expensive agency staff being used all too often to fill a gap where full time staff committed to the unit should be in place. The report noted the detrimental effect overreliance on transient agency staff has on patient care. Maternity care was found often to be uncovered and vacancies remained open. A lack of staff in specialised roles like Occupational Therapist contributed to ‘isolation, institutionalisation, boredom, and challenging behaviour’ on the unit which in turn makes work harder for staff already in place.

“Patients’ rights are being undermined by these problems with 81% of centres that use physical restraint doing so against guidelines and only 33% of units in compliance with rules on patient seclusion.

“These problems cannot be solved overnight, but they can be solved. We must increase investment in services and end the recruitment and retention crisis by attracting newly trained staff to stay in Ireland. We need to immediately reconvene the Mental Health Committee to hear from the Commission and to hold the government to account on these failing and the process needed to resolve them.

“The government must also now publish their plans for the new Mental Health Act for public scrutiny in order to achieve the best for patients and the service.”

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