The Mental Health Commission published three inspection reports yesterday. Two were positive. An Coillín, in Mayo, and Dublin’s Highfield Hospital improved overall compliance, by 10% and 9% , but the third unit — St Michael’s, in the Mercy University Hospital in Cork — saw its compliance rating drop by a substantial, worrying 8%.
These two advances show that inspections, no matter how troublesome, work. It shows that regulation raises the bar for service providers and, all going well, improves the circumstances of those reliant on mental health services. This was not, lest we forget, always the case. Nevertheless, suboptimal services persist, despite a huge shift in cultural expectations around services for mental illnesses over recent decades.
Despite that change, standards at the 50-bed Mercy unit, which provides acute adult mental healthcare and psychiatry of later-life care, slipped. Inspectors found there were 43 service users, nine of whom were there for over six months. They found “critical” issues with privacy and cleanliness and “high” level issues with staffing.
The Mercy plans to quadruple in size, but there is, as yet, no delivery date for those ambitious plans. In the interim, their patients deserve services comparable with the best in the country. If the 8% fall is a resources issue, then the units management should say so and the issue should be resolved. If not, they have other questions to answer.