Mental Health Taskforce Is Set Up

A new taskforce is to be established in response to a major review of mental health care in Northern Ireland. A new director for mental health and learning disability will also be put in place to take forward the recommendations of the Bamford Review.

The review is calling for the government to double funding for mental health services over the next 20 years. Charities have expressed disappointment that the government has not committed extra money to services.

Maureen of Piggott of Mencap said: “I was one of almost 400 people at the conference today that saw government respond to the review reports.

“I think I speak for many when I say how disappointed I was that he (Health Minister Paul Goggins) didn’t address square on the resources commitment that will be needed to really make a difference.”

The Bamford review, which has taken four years to complete, also says more patient treatment should be provided outside hospitals.

One in four of Northern Ireland’s population are affected by some form of mental illness at some point in their lives.

The Bamford Review, which began in 2002 and cost £1m to complete, was set up to examine how services for people with mental illness or learning disabilities could be improved.

It was launched to evaluate the law, policy and provision of services for those with mental health needs.

It closed formally at a conference in Belfast on Tuesday and has resulted in seven reports with another three in the pipeline.

Professor Roy McClelland, who chaired the review, said more money was crucial.

“We presently spend, for example on mental health, well over £100m per year – we need to double that,” he said.

Health Minister Paul Goggins said more needed to be done to find the cause of the problem.

“The headlines are around the extra money that will be needed and I am sure the evidence from the review will help with discussions with the Treasury about the money that we do need,” he said.

Sinn Fein health spokesperson John O’Dowd said the report’s recommendations needed an immediate response.

“Evidence from service users, carers and service providers point to significant gaps in service provision for people with mental health needs,” the Upper Bann assembly member said.

Carmel Hanna of the SDLP said more funding for mental health care was essential to improve services.

“Funding for mental health services in Northern Ireland to date has not reflected the size and scale of the problem here,” the South Belfast assembly member said.

Ulster Unionist health spokesman Robert Coulter said the review set down a challenge for Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland needs modern mental health services that respect the fundamental dignity of service users and is orientated towards recovery,” the North Antrim assembly member said.

Alliance assembly member for Strangford Kieran McCarthy said mental health care in Northern Ireland had been ignored for too long.

“Money invested in mental health provision will gain a strong return in the long run, in terms both of saving lives and of saving money,” he said.

Professor David Bamford, the University of Ulster academic who headed the review, died in January this year.

Before his death, he wrote an open letter to the health minister appealing for more cash to be made available.

Part of the review’s remit was to examine the Mental Health Order and take account of policy developments in Northern Ireland and the EU.