Press Release

Publication of the Annual Report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals

The Annual Report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals for the year ending 31st December 2002 has now been published. Copies have been laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas and a copy has been forwarded to the President of the High Court.

Mr. Tim O´Malley T.D., Minister for State at the Department of Health and Children said “I welcome the publication of the Report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals for 2002 and acknowledge the important work of the Inspectorate in providing an accurate and independent account of national services in the mental health sector” .

In his report for 2002, the Inspector notes the continuing decline in the number of patients in psychiatric in-patient facilities, from 4,256 at the end of 2001 to 3,966 at the end of 2002. He also highlighted the further increases in the provision of community facilities, such as day services and community residences. However, the Inspectorate has some reservations about the design features of some of the buildings proposed for use as day hospitals. The Inspectorate would like to see the programme of community residence provision accelerated and extended to eliminate the occupation of acute beds by patients whose illness and needs are no longer acute.

The Inspector outlined some significant developments during 2002, including the setting up of the Mental Health Commission with the appointment of a chairperson and members. Functions of the Commission include an independent review of patients detained involuntarily, the establishment of an Inspector of Mental Health Services and responsibility for establishing and maintaining a register of centres approved by it for the detention of patients suffering from mental disorder.

The Inspector welcomed the considerable reinforcement of various sub-specialities, with the appointment of additional consultant psychiatrists in Later-Life Psychiatry, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatry, Rehabilitation Psychiatry and Liaison psychiatry in general hospitals. The Inspector felt these posts demonstrate recognition at official level of the increasing complexity of psychiatric disorder and the growth of understanding of some of the circumstances and consequences of major mental disorder.

The failure of psychiatric general hospital units at Portlaoise General Hospital and Castlebar Regional Hospital to open as planned was a source of disappointment to the Inspector. The slow rate of progress in this area was a constant irritant and contributed to patient disadvantage. However, both units are expected to open very shortly. Equally frustrating was the lack of provision, by local housing authorities, of housing for the mentally ill and the associated difficulty of procuring community accommodation in the private sector because of supply and cost factors. This resulted in many in-patients having to remain in hospital unnecessarily.

In 2003 additional revenue funding of €7.600 million was provided for improvements in mental health services. The main development programmes for 2003 include: community-based services, hospital services, child and adolescent psychiatry, later-life psychiatry, suicide and suicide prevention programmes and the continuing support of the Voluntary sector.

Minister O´Malley also referred to the recently established Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, which will prepare a new national policy framework for the mental health services. “It is acknowledged that a new policy framework is needed, to take account of recent legislative reform, innovative developments in the care and treatment of mental illness and the views of those who use the services, as well as those who work within them” the Minister added. The Expert Group, which is to hold its first meeting shortly, is expected to report to the Minister in eighteen months´ time.