Mental Health Services – Topical Issue

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Speech by Minister James Reilly TD.    I wish to thank the Deputy for raising this important issue, and giving me the opportunity to give an update on the matter.

The HSE is proceeding to modernise and reform mental health services across HSE West, including the Galway/Roscommon area. A key factor in this reform was the recognition that the previous overall stock of 79 psychiatric beds across Galway and Roscommon was too high, based on recommendations in ‘A Vision for Change’, allied to a corresponding under-development of community based mental health services.

In this context, an Implementation Plan to reconfigure mental health services across the Galway/Roscommon administrative area was put in place, culminating in the closure of the psychiatric ward in St. Brigid’s, Ballinasloe and the transfer of beds from there, on a phased basis, to the acute psychiatric unit in University Hospital, Galway (UHG ).

Since February, a bed capacity level of 45 psychiatric beds has been operational in UHG. The HSE indicate that at no time since February has this bed occupancy level been exceeded, and that there is no pressure on physical bed occupancy at present in UHG.

Along with the increase in bed capacity, the local HSE has also improved clinical governance, putting in place two Assistant Directors of Nursing and an additional two Senior Nurse Managers. This is in addition to a range of new staff and services, including re-deployment of nurses from Ballinasloe.

The HSE point out that the Clinical Director, together with the Nurse Managers, conducts daily assessments on staffing requirements to ensure the safest possible service at all times. Staff in the Acute Unit at University Hospital Galway are confident that they can meet the needs of current inpatients, and the needs of those referred for assessments.

Following a recent Health and Safety Authority inspection, an Action Plan has been finalised by the HSE. The majority of the issues raised have already been implemented, and the remainder are being completed. For example, the Safety Statement has been reviewed and updated, and improvements are underway in relation to relevant aspects of staff training.

I wish to assure the House that the Department of Health, and the HSE, are fully committed to improving quality and safety throughout all mental health services, and that this goal will remain the highest priority as regards both patients and staff. This objective is reflected in the major re-configuration of mental health services in Galway/Roscommon, with approval for an additional 44 permanent staff at a cost of around €2.6m, and the coming on-stream of a new 50 bed Acute Unit in Galway towards the end of next year.

As was clearly demonstrated in the Private Members debate held in the Dail last week, which was unopposed by the Government, we all agree with the fundamentals of A Vision for Change and wish to see services brought into the 21st century. In this context, the HSE addresses all genuine concerns, particularly Quality and Safety, while taking account of recommendations arising out of reviews of mental health services at local level.We will continue with this approach so that all involved have an appropriate and meaningful say in modernising services across all regions of the country.