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Mental health recommendations will be implemented

31 October 2002 Media Statement

King: Southland mental health recommendations will be implemented

Health Minister Annette King says it is essential that all recommendations from the Health and Disability Commissioner's report into Southland District Health Board's mental health services are implemented.

“The Ministry of Health has assured me the report has been accepted in full by the Southland DHB, and that all recommendations will be actioned,” said Ms King. “I’m also given confidence by the fact that the Ministry will audit Southland’s mental health services at six and twelve month intervals, and report to the Health and Disability Commissioner.”

Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson released the report today after an investigation, which began late last year, into the quality of care provided to Mark Burton by Southland DHB's inpatient mental health services.

Mr Burton killed his mother on March 31 2001, one day after his discharge from Ward 12, Southland Hospital. He is currently a special patient under Section 121 (1)(b) of the Criminal Justice Act 1985.

“I sympathise deeply with the Burton family who have suffered enormously from this tragic chain of events. I, like them, believe that all health professionals must strive to prevent a tragedy like this happening again,'' said Ms King.

Ms King said some comfort could be taken from the fact that significant progress has already been made in Southland, and mental health services there were now quite different from those accessed by Mark Burton early last year.

“The DHB has spent much time looking at important issues such as staffing numbers, competencies and supervision, and has successfully recruited a number of new staff members, including consultant psychiatrists, to take up key roles in mental health services.

“One enduring concern I have in relation to all mental health services in New Zealand is the demoralising effect events like this can have on staff. The difficulties they face in their work are often underestimated. Mental health staff deal with some of society's most vulnerable people and work hard to improve their lives,'' she said.

“The gravity of Mr Paterson’s report cannot be underestimated however. There has to be accountability when things go so badly wrong, but Mr Paterson has also made it clear he wants the report to promote quality service delivery in the future. I fully endorse this approach.

“I will continue to support the implementation of the Mental Health Commission Blueprint to make sure hard-working mental health professionals have the resources and guidance they need to do their jobs effectively.”

Ms King said it was also important that regional clinical alliances were developed in mental health, particularly to help staff in small DHBs.

“It is important to share our available skills and expertise in this difficult area as effectively as we possibly can.”


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