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Mental health: a crisis of leadership

Mental health: a crisis of leadership

Green MP Sue Bradford says the time has come for politicians and health bosses to stop blaming staff for the crisis in mental health care and to start acknowledge the massive, ongoing systemic failure in the sector.

"Every week we are hearing more and more evidence of how a badly underfunded system is failing patients and their families," Sue Bradford, the Green Mental health spokesperson, said today.

"This week alone we've had an independent report on the mauling of a patient by a tiger at Wellington Zoo which identified overcrowding, poor layout and too few staff at Wellington Hospital's acute unit.

"Now, police in West Auckland are saying that they may refuse to hold mentally ill patients in their cells any longer. We were assured during the review of Auckland's mental health services last year that police cells would no longer be used to hold the overflow from acute units.

"Yet six months after the review team reported back, we have the police themselves, in desperation, advising that they've had enough of looking after up to six patients a month in the Henderson cells.

"In fact, what has changed as a result of the Auckland review?

"There was a lot of talk about 'integrated care' and the need for people to talk to each other but frontline mental health nurses are still not allowed any significant input into what is going on. Why do staff have to rely on the media to find out about police plans to end the use of cells for patients?

"Staff should be involved now in discussions on how best to manage the string of crises which will almost inevitably result from the police decision.

"I am sick of hearing about a 'lack of workforce' being used as the excuse for the chaos in the mental health system. After three and a half years of a Labour-led Government committed to workforce development this excuse is becoming somewhat tired.

"We won't get more, better trained and motivated staff until we pay them better. We could do that if there was less wastage in how money is spent.

"We don't need more inquiries or more money wasted on yet more layers of bureaucracy - what we do need is clear leadership focused on the use of what resources there are both inside the hospital system and outside in the community sector.

"I am calling for real leadership from the highest levels of Government before more lives are ruined."


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