Row Over Mental Health Law

The HSE and medical bodies have clashed over whether the necessary resources are in place to facilitate new mental health legislation which came into force on 1st November. Standards of mental health care are set to improve as a result of the full implementation of the new Mental Health act from today, according to the HSE. Under the legislative change, patients involuntarily detained in psychiatric centres will be able to have their detention reviewed by independent panels within 21 days.

The HSE says the new legislation requires mental health services to be more transparent. It accepts that this will place an additional burden on staff members in mental health services, which, the HSE says, it has addressed with a significant investment package.

“Every mental health service in Ireland has received additional funding and staff allocation, with `areas of high population growth or deprivation being particularly targeted.”

The HSE says just over €26 million has been provided in 2006. However, the Irish College of Psychiatrists says the resources are not in place to support the aims, spirit and detail of the legislation. Dr Kate Ganter, Chairperson of the College, said lack of funding and the political will have been major issues for our mental health services. “While some increases have been hard-won, they are arriving too late and we are ill-prepared for the implementation of the Act.” Dr Ganter said there is a massive shortage of dedicated beds for children and adolescents in the psychiatric services and adult services are generally poorly staffed.

The two medical organisations, the IHCA and IMO, have also expressed concern about the resources sin place to implement the new legislation.

The IMO has said 20 additional consultant psychiatrist posts needed for the tribunals to operate have not yet been advertised.