Press Release

O’Malley frustrated at refusal of consultant psychiatrists to implement reforms

Tim O’Malley TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for mental health, today (19 October 2005) expressed his deep frustration at the continuing refusal of consultant psychiatrists to co-operate with the implementation of key elements of the Mental Health Act, 2001.

In particular Minister O’Malley highlighted that the sections of Act dealing with the automatic, independent review of all people who are detained in mental health facilities – the establishment and operation of Mental Health Tribunals – need to be implemented immediately.

“People who are detained against their will for psychiatric care and treatment are among the most vulnerable in our society in terms of their human rights” the Minister stated. “It is completely unacceptable that those who should be the guardians of those rights – their treating consultants – are the ones who are obstructing reform.”

The Mental Health Act, 2001 – designed to replace the Mental Treatment Act, 1945 – brings Irish legislation into conformity with the European Convention on Human Rights. However, in a decision made last night, the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) rejected an offer which would have enabled the process of implementation to get underway. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which represents some consultant psychiatrists, has also indicated its unwillingness to co-operate at present.

“I am aware that the consultant psychiatrists, in their protracted discussions to date, have complained about the failure to provide resources” the Minister said. “However, in recent weeks a very substantial offer of additional resources for the mental health services was made to them and this has now been rejected. Their stance is baffling and casts doubts as to their willingness to co-operate with the essential reforms proposed . ”

The Minister added that, in failing to implement the provisions of the new Act, Ireland was in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. “Five years ago, the Irish Government gave an undertaking to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg that this Act would be implemented. It is the Government’s intention to abide by that commitment” the Minister added.

“I have asked the HSE and the Mental Health Commission to immediately proceed with alternative options for the delivery of these essential reforms – we cannot accept any further delays”