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Beggs Tragedy Condemns Neglected Mental Health

MP for Titirangi
Committees on Finance and Expenditure,
Commerce, and Regulations Review


“The Beggs family had paid a terrible price for nine years of neglect of the New Zealand mental health services”, Titirangi MP David Cunliffe said today.

He was reacting to the internal Waitemata Health report on the treatment provided to Lachlan Jones, a mental health patient who in 1999 murdered his flatmate, Malcolm Beggs, and then committed suicide.

“I am deeply saddened and angered by the review”, David Cunliffe said. “It points to serious failings in treatment planning, clinical oversight, and communication both between medical professionals and with the families of patients”.

“These failings represent the grim toll of the last National Government’s refusal to give mental health services the resources they need”.

“Planning, monitoring and reviewing of Lachlan Jones’ treatment was woeful, and I demand that Waitemata Health urgently address the internal issues raised by the review”, David Cunliffe said.

“Waitemata Health has at least fronted up and admitted today that there were major problems. I commend the steps that they have taken or will take to solve them. But that cannot bring Malcolm Beggs back. We must ensure that no other families face a similar loss”.

The report concludes that Waitemata Health caregivers were struggling with inadequate resources and patient care practices. Waitemata Health has 38 out of the recommended 129 full-time clinical staff for its Youth and Child Service.

“I am particularly staggered and appalled, for instance, that Waitemata Health did not maintain single patient records that help ensure treatment is co-ordinated and consistent”, David Cunliffe said.

“A number of clinical teams attended to Lachlan Jones. Yet the report states there was no ‘consistent application to his problems of the skills represented in these teams’. What a shame and a waste”.

“I am concerned that Waitemata Health chose to conduct this investigation under the secrecy provisions of the Medical Practitioners Act rather than as a public inquiry under the Mental Health Act”, David Cunliffe said .

“I will examine closely the public coroner’s inquest due to start on June the 19th. I will then assess the need for a further public inquiry to bring all the evidence into the open”.

“I am very mindful today of the thoughts and feelings of Brian and Yvonne Beggs, whose son Malcolm had no idea he was in a position of mortal danger when taking Lachlan Jones as a flatmate”, said David Cunliffe.

“I know Prime Minister Helen Clark and Health Minister Annette King extend their deepest sympathies to the Beggs family. We are committed to fixing the mess that is New Zealand’s mental health service by fully implementing the Mental Health Commission’s Blueprint”.


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