Concerns raised by watchdog over 'areas of operation' at several mental health units

Concerns raised by watchdog over 'areas of operation' at several mental health units
The South Lee Mental Health Unit at the Cork University Hospital. Picture Dan Linehan

Four inpatient mental health units that failed to meet standards in fundamental areas of operation had their licences “endorsed” during 2018 by the mental health watchdog.

Each had conditions attached to their registration on foot of shortcomings identified by the Inspector of Mental Health Services.

They included the HSE-run acute mental health unit on the campus of Cork University Hospital (CUH), which opened just over three years ago.

Two conditions were attached to the re-registration of this unit, related to individual care planning and medication.

An inspection of the 50-bed unit found individual care plans (ICPs) were drawn up without consulting patients’ families.

Some of the plans did not identify patients’ assessed needs or appropriate goals or resources needed to meet goals. Nor were they always updated following review.

The centre was also criticised for gaps in its medication prescription and administration records (MPARs), including failure to record patients’ allergies or sensitivities to medication.

The two conditions attached to the unit’s re-registration require that ICPs and MPARS be audited on a monthly basis, with audit reports forwarded to the Mental Health Commission.

These requirements remain in place since the centre was inspected last February.

The other three centres to have conditions attached during 2018 included:

  • St Aloysius Ward, Mater University Hospital, in relation to ICPs and therapeutic services
  • Department of Psychiatry, Connolly Hospital, related to ICPs and staff training
  • Le Brun House & Whitethorn House, Vergemount Mental Health Facility, in relation to the maintenance of the premises

Commission chief executive John Farrelly said attaching conditions to units was “effectively an endorsement on their licence to operate”.

"Our priority is the people using these services and we are determined to ensure standards are met for their sake.

In our view it is not acceptable when standards are not met and when that occurs we will intervene, using all powers necessary, without fear or favour," Mr Farrelly said.

The Commission's role was "to call out those that do not meet those standards".

Rosemary Smyth, director of standards and quality assurance said, the Commission “does not attach registration conditions lightly”.

“However, where there are repeated failures to meet basic requirements, we have an obligation to take enforcement action," she said.

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