Press Release

O´Malley publishes Report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals

Mr Tim O´Malley, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, has today (12th September, 2002) published the Report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals 2001 and laid copies before both Houses of the Oireachtas and forwarded a copy to the President of the High Court.

“I welcome the publication of the Report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals for 2001 and acknowledge the important work of the Inspectorate in providing an accurate and independent account of national services in the mental health sector,” said the Minister.

While the Minister was pleased with the progress being made in the development of a comprehensive community based mental health service, he recognised that much remains to be done. “It is my intention to facilitate health boards in improving the quality of our mental health services and in giving priority to the provision of modern acute psychiatric units within general hospitals throughout the country,” added the Minister.

In his report for 2001, the Inspector notes the continuing decline in the number of patients in psychiatric inpatient facilities, from 4,522 at the end of 2000 to 4,256 at the end of 2001. The number of involuntary admissions (2,597) remained constant at about ten per cent.

The Inspector refers to the ongoing replacement of old institutional mental hospitals with acute psychiatric units attached to general hospitals. During 2001, new acute psychiatric units were completed or nearing completion at St. Luke´s Hospital, Kilkenny; Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar and at Portlaoise General Hospital and these units were expected to be fully functional during 2002. The few remaining patients at Our Lady´s Psychiatric Hospital in Cork were due to transfer to the new St. Anne´s Unit in Shanakiel in Cork City, facilitating the final closure of Our Lady´s. The construction of new acute psychiatric units was well under way at James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Blanchardstown and at St. Vincent´s Hospital, Elm Park.

The Inspector noted that significant developments during 2001 included the enactment of the Mental Health Act, 2001 which was signed into law in July, 2001. The Act provides for the establishment of the Mental Health Commission which is an independent statutory body whose primary functions are to promote, foster and encourage the establishment and maintenance of high standards and good practices in the delivery of mental health services and to protect the interests of people who are detained for psychiatric care and treatment. The first Report of the Working Group on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was published in March 2001 and provides the blueprint for the development of these services over the coming years. The group is now focusing on the particular needs of sixteen to eighteen year olds. The new National Health Strategy Document “Quality and Fairness – A Health System for You” was also published in 2001 and identifies the establishment of the Mental Health Commission and the putting in place of a national framework for the further modernisation of mental health services, as key objectives for the coming years.

Concern was expressed by the Inspector at the inadequate skill mix and lack of flexibility within many mental health services. However, he welcomed the introduction of new measures aimed at attracting and retaining nursing staff and the development of higher level courses for nurses wishing to follow a clinical career path.

In 2002 additional revenue funding of €24.447 million was provided for improvements in mental health services. The main development programmes for 2002 include: Community-Based Services, Hospital Services, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Old Age Psychiatry, Suicide and Suicide Prevention Programmes and the continuing support of the Voluntary Sector.