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Days Of Patronising & Neglecting Families Must End

17 February 2002

Green Party Mental Health spokesperson Sue Bradford said mental health services must act immediately on a report released today which found better communication with families of mentally ill patients is "critical".

Ms Bradford called on all mental health services across the country to adopt the Code of Family Rights, developed by the Schizophrenia Fellowship, and to act on its principles in their everyday practice.

The review of how mental health services share information about at-risk people, released by the Minister of Health today, found that information sharing policies were "hit and miss", and that families were "very frustrated" by their involvement with mental health services.

Ms Bradford said the report was damning in its description of how families of mentally ill patients are dealt with by mental health services.

"I find it extremely worrying that families "invariably" said that legislation passed in 1999 had not improved the situation for them, despite the legislation requiring clinicians to consult with families. The report concludes that we don't need new legislation, but we do need nationally consistent information sharing policies.

"That will only work if mental health services move away from away from the uncaring culture and failed practices of the 80s and 90s which saw families patronised, ignored and kept in the dark about basic information such as admission, treatment and discharge.

"To bring about the changes called for in this review, we need to make it clear to everyone working within the mental health system, particularly managers, that it is simply not acceptable to hide behind the Privacy Act when they fail to meet their responsibilities.

"If the real problem they're hiding is the lack of acute beds or shortage of adequate accommodation in the community, it is about time the mental health services were honest about it."

Ms Bradford said the report had given a glowing recommendation for the work of the Schizophrenia Fellowship from families, who described their information and support as invaluable.

"The Schizophrenia Fellowship has done great work in developing a Code of Family Rights, and families could expect more respect and better communication if it was adapted, incorporated and actually acted upon throughout New Zealand."


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