Mental health review will change patient interaction with services, says Lynch

Kathleen Lynch says changes in controversial ECT to be implemented before summer

Under the proposals from the expert group report, it will no longer be possible to administer the controversial ECT to a person who has capacity and does not consent to the treatment. Photograph: Alan Betson /The Irish Times

Under the proposals from the expert group report, it will no longer be possible to administer the controversial ECT to a person who has capacity and does not consent to the treatment. Photograph: Alan Betson /The Irish Times

 

A major review of health legislation due to be published today will change how people suffering with mental health issues interact with services on offer, says Minister of State Kathleen Lynch.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Ms Lynch said she hoped to see the changes in how electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is administered to patients before the summer recess.

“There’s already a bill in the Senate and the first day I was in this job I dealt with this bill and on that occasion said that at the very first opportunity we would deal with the administration of ECT.”

Under the proposals from the expert group report, it will no longer be possible to administer the controversial ECT to a person who has capacity and does not consent to the treatment.

At present, the mental health Act states that ECT may be administered where a patient is “unable or unwilling” to give consent once it has been approved by two consultant psychiatrists.

“I’ve always believed, and the experts tell me.., that in relation to ECT it can be helpful in certain circumstances,” said Ms Lynch. “But where someone has capacity and says no, I don’t want that treatment, then we have to listen to that and that’s what they will be doing.”

“I’m glad to see that they’ve [expert panel]come up with the recommendations which will change, not just our legislation governing mental health, but it will change how people who have difficulties with their mental health interact with the service.”

The current legislation is regarded by many campaigners as outdated given the growing emphasis on care in the community and demands for greater autonomy by patient groups.

Ms Lynch said careful steps must be taken when amending the current legislation to reflect patients’ rights.

“We’ll have to be very careful about how it dovetails with the assisted decision making capacity legislation,” she said, adding that she hopes to see the other recommendations from the report implemented before the Government leaves office.

The report contains a total of 165 proposals which seek to strengthen patients’ rights, extend the remit of watchdog bodies and place greater emphasis on children’s services.

Ms Lynch said today’s health legislation review will follow on from the Government’s mental health policy A Vision for Change, adding that the public perception of mental health has changed since the document was published in 2006.

“I have to say A Vision for Change has had a greater impact on how we view people with mental health issues and how they’re treated as well,” she said. “I think the recovery element, which is embedded in A Vision for Change, has in fact changed. The perception of mental health has changed how practitioners view people.”

Asked to comment on reports that an offer of € 100 per child for GPs has been made as part of the negotiations relating to free GP care for children under the age of 6, Ms Lynch said she was not part of the “fee sitting element” of the discussions.

“We’ve just been informed of the global figure which the negotiators have been negotiating around and as you probably know that’s € 25 million.”

Ms Lynch said she trusted GPs to always deliver the best possible care to their patients.

“I believe GPs want to deliver the best service to their patients and have been doing it for as long as we’ve had the GMS service in this country.”