Mental Health Commission to adopt ‘low tolerance for non-compliance’

At the launch of the Mental Health Commission’s Strategic Plan were, from left, John Saunders, chairman of the Mental Health Commission, Minister of State for Mental Health Jim Daly and John Farrelly, chief executive of the Mental Health Commission. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

At the launch of the Mental Health Commission’s Strategic Plan were, from left, John Saunders, chairman of the Mental Health Commission, Minister of State for Mental Health Jim Daly and John Farrelly, chief executive of the Mental Health Commission. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

 

The Mental Health Commission is adopting a “very low tolerance for non-compliance” from service providers, its chairman said on Thursday.

Adherence to human rights will be the central guiding principle governing all aspects of the mental health services, according to the body which oversees compliance in the area.

Mental Health Commission chairman John Saunders was launching the organisation’s strategy for 2019-2022 Protecting People’s Rights.

“We have to be clear that notwithstanding the need to work together, where human rights are not protected and the services do not improve, we shall intervene and we shall act within the law.

“Our preference is obviously a shared approach which delivers in the present and creates a future. We must have the courage to learn from the past, and from the mistakes of the past, and act to create a better future for everybody. We will play our part in that,” he said.

He described the strategy as “an ambitious course . . . to realise our vision of an Ireland with the highest quality mental health and decision support services underpinned by a person’s human rights”.

“Individual human rights will be at the heart of our work and functions over the next four years,” he said. “It will be the common thread to all of our activities, our policies, our rules, our codes of practice and our standards.”

Commission remit

The commission oversees compliance by service providers, the work of the Mental Health Tribunal, through which a person hospitalised against their will can challenge that decision, and the Office of Inspector of Mental Health Services, who is Dr Susan Finnerty.

It was set up in 2002 under the Mental Health Act 2001 and its remit was extended under the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and reports to both the Minister for Health and Minister for Justice.

The Acts represented “a move away from paternalism in the delivery of care”, said Áine Flynn, director of the commission’s Decision Support Service. She described the 2015 Act, which is about to come into force, as “new and disruptive legislation”.

In implementing it, she said “the person will always be our priority”.

At the core of the 2019-2022 strategy are six objectives.

They are the promotion of human rights; adherence to all national and international legislation; implementing the 2001 and 2015 Acts; promoting public awareness of the commission’s role and confidence in it; developing stakeholder responsiveness to external and societal changes; and developing an agile organisation with an open and inclusive culture.

The commission’s chief executive, John Farrelly, said many of the key stakeholders in mental health care services were “caring, compassionate and crying out for change”.

Inspections

Inspections had already created a fund of knowledge about the current state of mental health services, he said.

“When you look at the information in the public domain, we now have the facts about the Irish mental health service in a balanced way and we want to scrutinise that . . . to really push through in terms of this strategy.

“We will support the inspector of mental health services to carry out her function and we will also initiate a recruitment and training process for new mental health tribunal members.

“Our aim in the commission, in collaboration with the department justice and equality, we are going to deliver an enabling service, focused on people’s wills and preferences. This is what we are going to do. There is going to be a culture of change in society, that is what is being asked of us by the Oireachtas and the Ministers and that is what we will do.

“We will continue to work with the services that put the person first but we will target low-quality services and we will use our powers to intervene . . . We are committed to creating relationships, to promoting standards [that] mitigate risks, vindicate rights and ensure people are safeguarded at their time of need.”