Minister for Health Simon Health has defended his record in the area of mental health services and said he has been working “extremely hard” for the past three years to make up for “decades of neglect” of the service.
He was responding to a report by the Inspector of Mental Health Services (Dr Susan Finnerty) which said it was "quite astounding" that the State has failed to provide adequate rehabilitation services in the sector.
The Inspector's report on rehabilitation and recovery in the Health Service Executive's Mental Health Services stated that, despite advances in treatments and investment in community-based services over recent decades, some people continue to present with particularly complex problems requiring longer-term care.
Dr Susan Finnerty blamed the long-term neglect of people with severe and enduring mental illness for creating a "revolving door" admissions practice to the detriment of service users, their families and the public finances.
On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, the Minister said he welcomed the Inspector’s report and said that “significant progress” has been made with the mental health budget which is now €1billion with a 20 per cent reduction in waiting times.
Mr Harris also said that the new mental health hospital in Portrane will provide a new model of care, offering patients rehabilitation before release to community care and a new level of support.
The Minister said he would prioritise the service and “will do more.”
Also on Morning Ireland the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Commission, John Farrelly said the gaps in the provision of mental health rehabilitation were "quite astounding and have the potential to cause a future scandal".
He said that around 14 out of every 100 people who enter mental health services will develop severe and enduring mental illness and will need specific support and help in order to recover.
The way that we want to see things done is that Government policy is applied and applied properly.
"It's not an à la carte menu and it's something that should be monitored by the department and people should be held accountable.
"At this moment in time, there are people in units around this country, in beds, that don't need to be there, because we don't have the community rehabilitation services. So it's bad for the patient, but it's also bad for the public purse and it just doesn't make any sense.
"A policy is just a piece of paper, it's absolutely useless unless it's implement and monitored."
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health James Browne said that a report by the Mental Health Commission has demonstrated a "complete failure of mental health policy implementation and oversight by the government."
Mr Browne said: “People with severe and enduring mental illness are some of the most vulnerable in our community. Rehabilitation provides them with an opportunity to recover and retain a quality of life.
The Mental Health Commission’s report makes it clear that this opportunity is being lost and that the state is guilty of long-term neglect of people in need of services.
“When the failure to provide basic services as highlighted in this report is matched with the withholding of €25 million in mental health funding it paints a picture of fundamental delinquency in our health services.
“There is a clear failure of political will to ensure policy implementation and oversight. The HSE is accountable to the Minister for Health - he needs to instruct the HSE to put in place an action plan to implement mental health policy.
"The current situation is completely unacceptable, and the Minister must take responsibility”.