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New forum for psychiatric patients

New forum for psychiatric patients

The government will establish a forum for former psychiatric patients who claim to have suffered abuse while in hospital, Attorney-General Margaret Wilson announced today.

The Confidential Forum for Former In-Patients of Psychiatric Hospitals will invite former patients, their families and hospital staff members to tell the stories of their experiences in psychiatric institutions.

"The forum is designed to give former patients a chance to talk about their experiences in a non-critical and confidential environment," Margaret Wilson said.

"It will refer people to appropriate existing agencies - such as ACC, the Health and Disability Commissioner or Police - where necessary. Professional counseling will also be made available.

"When complete, those who sit on the forum will report back to the government."

Margaret Wilson said those seeking to establish liability or claim compensation will be required to follow the court process.

"A court is the best place to do this given the historic nature of claims, the issues of credibility and the size of compensation sought. Furthermore, an initial investigation of the claims indicated some alleged abusers deny the allegations. It is a matter of natural justice to allow them to defend their reputations."

The forum will be open to those who were inpatients in psychiatric hospitals before 1992. Those hospitalised after 1992 have greater access to complaints mechanisms under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act passed that year. Family members of former patients and staff from psychiatric hospitals will also be able to participate.

The Department of Internal Affairs will administer the forum, in consultation with the Ministry of Health. Ombudsman and former District Court judge Anand Satyanand will chair the forum.

Two other panel members will be appointed after consultation with mental health consumer representatives.

Forum participants will have their stories heard by the forum of up to three members.

The forum is expected to commence early next year. Those wanting to participate should call the Department of Internal Affairs on 0800 225590.

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