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Time to act in mental health

“Mental health services across New Zealand are at breaking point because of chronic overload and incapacity” says Richard Wagstaff, Public Service Association (PSA) national secretary. And capacity is decreasing because there are not enough staff to run the service.

“A major effect of the staffing crisis, is the withdrawal of the critical services. Quite simply, if there are not enough people, the service can’t be provided” said Richard Wagstaff. “In fact, this has already happened in Waitamata with the closure of an acute inpatient unit." Acute units exist to provide short-term services for patients at a time of crisis in their lives.

“Staff shortages in mental health services is nothing new – that’s the problem. While we hear about new initiatives to address staffing, we see few real changes on the ground. Workforce development has to be a priority.”

In patient units are already beyond their capacity, and carrying patients loads greater than they are designed to accommodate.” If patients need to stay in the unit for extended periods of time, or cannot be discharged because no suitable support and accommodation can be found outside of the unit, which is often the case, there is no room for other patients who need the same service. Where do these people go?” asks Richard Wagstaff.

The PSA wants to people to have access to the mental health services they need. “That means better capacity within well staffed mental health services. These problems have been a long time in the making and require urgent sustained action to rectify them. We’re calling on the Minister of Health to take urgent action to address the capacity issues in mental health and to ensure the government’s workforce development project delivers on staffing” concluded Richard Wagstaff.

The PSA is seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister to discuss these issues.


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