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Ministry Welcomes Coroner's Findings

Media release

17 April 2001

Ministry Welcomes Coroner's Findings

THE Ministry of Health welcomes the coroner's report into the deaths of Lachlan Jones and David Begg.

"The Ministry would like to express its sympathy for the families of Lachlan Jones and David Begg. The coroner's report raises many issues around their tragic deaths," Director of Mental Health David Chaplow said.

Dr Chaplow said the Ministry saw the issues addressed in the coroner's report falling into three major areas. The coroner addressed issues of policy, issues of practices at Waitemata Health, and issues around patient privacy.

"While the coroner had the benefit of hindsight when considering the actions of the Waitemata Health staff involved in dealing with Lachlan Jones, he quite rightly found that they largely did the best that they could in handling his case," Dr Chaplow said.

"Nevertheless, the coroner has raised issues around supervision of junior clinicians and their access to senior staff, practices and issues around the delivery of medication to patients and issues around the gathering, storage and use of patient information. These are all issues for Waitemata Health to address," Dr Chaplow said.

"I appreciate the coroner's comments about the threshold for release of information under the Health Information Privacy Code. This is an issue that deserves wide debate in the community but any such debate must consider the rights of mental health consumers and their families alongside public perceptions and concerns.

Dr Chaplow noted that the majority of mental health consumers live successful and productive lives in the community in private and that if the situation changed, many of them might face difficulties and stigma caused by community fear based on inaccurate perceptions of mental illness.

Commenting on the coroner's invitation for the Minister to review the adequacy of funding for mental health facilities, Dr Chaplow noted that New Zealand's mental health services receive more funding now than they have at any time in the past and that prioritisation of resources in health care was always subject to the limits of available funding.

"It's also important to remember that resource issues are wider than just funding, there are also issues of staff recruitment and retention, staff expertise and training.

These issues will be considered as one of the first priorities of the new Health Workforce Advisory Committee recently established by the Minister of Health.

"Many of the nationwide issues raised in the coroner's report have already been addressed by the Ministry in its recent report into services available for people with mental illness in the justice system. While it is important to remember that Lachlan Jones was a voluntary patient and did not enter the mental health service through the justice system, the Ministry's Framework for Forensic Mental Health Services report outlines a comprehensive, integrated community approach to treatment of mental illness that will build on and enhance the community care principles," Dr Chaplow said.

For further information contact; Angus Barclay, Media Advisor, Ministry of Health Tel: 04- 496-2067 Internet Address; http://www.moh.govt.nz

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