HSE Criticised On Mental Health Law

Consultant psychiatrists have criticised what they say is a lack of preparation by the HSE and Department of Health for the introduction of part two of the Mental Health Act on November 1. This legislation will provide a legal framework of entitlements for patients who are involuntarily detained in psychiatric hospitals. Psychiatrist members of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) say they are extremely concerned about the lack of resources being provided by the health authority for the full implementation of the legislation.

The HSE, in response, says it is fully committed to implementing the range of necessary supports which will allow for full compliance with all sections of the Act.

The psychiatrists say areas of concern include lack of in-patient facilities for children and adolescents who are detained under the legislation; lack of proper facilities for adults with learning disability who are detained; and a failure to appoint 20 additional consultant psychiatrists as was previously agreed.

The new legislation governing the involuntary detention of certain patients in psychiatric units provides for a tightening up of procedures including an obligation that relevant documentation be made available to the authorities within 24 hours of admission; that a mental health tribunal hearing on the detention be he held within 21 days of admission; and for a second medical opinion to be given where ECT is proposed, where there is a change of status from voluntary to detained patient and when there is a review of medication.

The IHCA said it is ‘shameful’ that with five years to prepare for this Act, so little has been done by those responsible for resources to put in place personnel and facilities essential to comply with the legislation.

The HSE says it is providing for the development of 22 new consultant-led mental health teams in conjunction with the new legislation.

It also says it is working to create additional inpatient capacity for persons with a significant intellectual disability and says it has also identified additional inpatient capacity for children and adolescents in accordance with the legislation.

The HSE also says it is setting up an independent panel of psychiatrists who will volunteer to give second opinions under the new legislation.