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Mental Health Services at Waitemata Health

10 May 2000

Mental Health Services at Waitemata Health

SERIOUS shortcomings in Waitemata Health's treatment of Lachlan Jones are unacceptable and I have serious concerns about the parameters under which the inquiry was conducted, Director of Mental Health Janice Wilson says.

Lachlan Jones, a 19-year-old patient of Waitemata Health's mental health services in late August last year killed his flatmate Malcolm Beggs in West Auckland.

"Waitemata Health has conducted its inquiry under a process set out in the Medical Practitioners Act which protects the confidentiality of the inquiry panel's report," Dr Wilson said.

"While I regret that it chose not to follow advice about a more transparent process, I have seen a copy of the report and am satisfied that the inquiry was thorough and comprehensive. They have covered all the issues I would expect to be inquired into and Waitemata Health accepts the report's findings."

Dr Wilson said the Health Minister had been advised to write to all Hospital and Health Services requesting that they do not use the legal parameters of the Medical Practitioners Act to conduct inquiries into incidents such as these.

The Auckland Coroner will also be conducting an inquiry into the deaths of Mr Beggs and Mr Jones in June.

Dr Wilson said that the nature of mental illness meant that despite a range of therapies and good services and management, it was not always possible to prevent incidents like this.

"Even with the best mental health services incidents like this will happen. These risks are part of the business although we will continue to make every effort to minimise them from happening and they are in fact rare.

"That said we have to acknowledge that the services Waitemata Health provided to Lachlan Jones failed to measure up in a number of ways," Dr Wilson said.

"This is a terrible tragedy and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families. While this report won't go any way to lessening their distress, I only hope that the family can take some consolation from the fact that we are doing our best to minimise the chances of this happening again," Dr Wilson said.

"Waitemata Health has assured me that it will be implementing all the recommendations. I will be auditing them to ensure that is so in three months time, and again at three-monthly intervals for the next year."

Dr Wilson said the Ministry of Health and the Health Funding Authority would also review demand on the hospital's community mental health services and assist in developing a plan to meet it, in line with the national Blueprint for mental health services.

The Ministry is also surveying all other Hospital and Health Services on a number of the issues raised in the review of Lachlan Jones's care - particularly clarity of roles in interdisciplinary teams, team responsibility and overall service accountability.

As part of regular quality improvement, all HHS mental health services should have initiated systems of regular external audit. We clearly need to make this a formal requirement, Dr Wilson said.

"While we will be doing our best to assist Waitemata to strengthen their services and will continue to assist other HHSs around the country, but unfortunately I fear this will not lessen the distress and pain felt by both the Jones and Beggs families.

ends

For more information contact Frances Ross, Chief Media Advisor, 04 496 2202 or 025 512 833. Internet address: http://www.moh.govt.nz/media.html

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