Press Release

Minister publishes Annual Report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals

Mr Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children today (11 September, 2001) published the Annual Report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals for 2000 and laid copies before both Houses of the Oireachtas and forwarded a copy to the President of the High Court.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Minister Martin said “I welcome the publication of the Report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals for 2000 and acknowledge the important role that the Inspectorate, as an independent body, plays in providing an accurate and detailed account of services in the mental health sector throughout the country.”

In his report for 2000, the Inspector notes the continuing decline in the number of patients in psychiatric inpatient facilities, from 4,768 at the end of 1999 to 4,559 at the end of 2000. There were more than 24,000 admissions to these facilities in 2000 of which approximately 6,750 were first admissions. The proportion of patients being admitted to acute psychiatric units in general hospitals continued to increase and in 2000 accounted for forty-three per cent of admissions. A further thirteen per cent were admitted to private hospitals. The number of involuntary admissions at approximately 2,450 remained constant at ten per cent.

Concern was, however, expressed by the Inspector at the lack of multidisciplinary teams in many mental health services, particularly in the area of psychology, occupational therapy and social work services.

The Department has provided additional resources to health boards this year for improvements in these services but many boards were experiencing problems in recruiting these professionals to the mental health services (as well as other health services). The Government has been undertaking a number of initiatives to deal with this problem. Among them are, the commissioning of a work-force planning study by Dr Peter Bacon and Associates, increasing the number of student places in the therapy schools, and implementing the recommendations of the Expert Group Report on Various Health Professions.

Developments

A number of welcome developments were reported in many of the health board regions during 2000. One major development during the year was the opening of the new acute psychiatric unit at the Mercy Hospital, Cork in April, 2000 which represented a major step forward for the North Lee service. Work had also commenced on the construction of the new acute unit at St Luke´s Hospital, Kilkenny and Portlaoise General Hospital. In the Eastern Regional area, the upgrading and improvement of conditions in the admission units in both St Brendan´s Hospital and St Ita´s Hospital were welcomed as was the appointment of a new consultant-led liaison psychiatric service at St James´s Hospital. Considerable expenditure had also been provided on upgrading the admission facilities in St Loman´s Hospital, Mullingar.

The Cavan/Monaghan service embarked on an intensive approach to care delivery for both acute illness and for those with more enduring mental disorders. Specialist teams had been set up to deal with acute illness on a community and domiciliary basis in both counties. At the same time, a specialist rehabilitation team was put in place to deal with more resistant illness in the counties. The results of this initiative were already being clearly seen in the reduction in the numbers of patients in both acute units in Monaghan and Cavan and this innovative development was welcomed. Rehabilitation teams have also been approved for the East Galway service in St Brigid´s Hospital, Ballinasloe and at St Loman´s Hospital, Dublin 20.

Community Services

A number of community services were enhanced and included the opening of new day hospitals in Swords, Co Dublin; Athy and Celbridge, Co Kildare and Letterkenny, Co Donegal; day centres in Balbriggan, Co Dublin; Celbridge, Co Kildare and Westport, Co Mayo; extensive refurbishment and upgrading of community residences in the St James´s Hospital service; the opening of supported residential accommodation in Newbridge, Co Kildare; Rathdowney, Laois; Carndonagh and Letterkenny, Co Donegal. Community developments in the Clare Mental Health services had advanced significantly and it was expected that Our Lady´s Hospital, Ennis would close in the near future. Although the Inspector acknowledged the progress that has been made in the provision of acute units in general hospitals, community mental health centres, day hospitals and community residential facilities for persons with mental health disorders, he stated that the rate of progress needs to accelerate.

Mental Health Bill

In his latest report, the Inspector also mentioned further progress on the implementation of the Mental Health Bill. The Bill was formally presented to the Oireachtas in April, 2000 and by June, 2001 it had been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The new Mental Health Act, which was signed by the President on 8 July, 2001, provides for the independent and automatic review of each decision to detain a patient in a psychiatric centre and puts in place mechanisms by which the standards of care and treatment provided in psychiatric inpatient facilities can be supervised and regulated. A Mental Health Commission is to be set up to act as an independent agency to raise standards and practices in the delivery of mental health services and to ensure that the rights of detained persons are protected. Mental Health Tribunals will review every case of detention and will either confirm or revoke the detention order.

The Minister added, “I am pleased with the progress being made in the development of our mental health services. I recognise that we still have some distance to go in the provision of a comprehensive community based mental health service and it is my intention to facilitate health boards in bringing about the improvements and developments identified by the Inspectorate.”

To this end, additional revenue funding of £18.64 million has been provided in 2001 for improvements in mental health services. The main programme areas for 2001 include: Community-Based Services, Hospital Services, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Old Age Psychiatry, Suicide and Suicide Prevention Programmes and the Voluntary Sector.