New Delay Facing Irish Mental Health Act

The Secretary General of the Department of Health has been warned by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that the Executive will not be ready to implement part two of the Mental Health Act by 1 November. The HSE has also sought legal advice on the matter. Mr Aidan Browne, HSE National Director of Primary, Community and Continuing Care, informed Mr Michael Scanlan in a letter, “We would welcome your advice on the position of the HSE with regard to commencement of the Act on 1 November 2006, given the fact that our services are incomplete”.

Part two of the act includes holding tribunals for psychiatric patients who are involuntarily detained in mental health institutions. Mr Browne’s letter added: “The HSE is seeking legal clarification of the options available to it in the context of the commencement of the legislation on 1 November 2006”.

Referring to issues raised at a meeting between Mr Dermot Ryan, Principal Officer for Mental Health in the Department, and the Mental Health Commission on June 26; Mr Browne stated: “While we are actively working at addressing these issues it will not be possible to address them in the timeframe to the commencement of the Act”.

Mr Browne said that every effort would be made to meet the HSE’s obligations for full commencement on 1st November, but he warned that this was not a realistic prospect in the timeframe allowed.

The letter was sent to Mr Scanlan less than a week after the Minister for Health, Mary Harney, announced that November 1 would be the commencement date for part two of the act.

The letter outlined work done so far by the HSE, and what still had to be done, in preparation for implementing part two of the act.

These areas included training, providing information about the Act, extra staff, administrative support, spaces to hold tribunals in, approving the status of centres, policy and procedural issues, and clinical indemnity.