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Greens again call for mental health review

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/06/2016

The Green Party is again calling for an inquiry into mental health services as a debate about the use of seclusion for the care for an autistic man continues.

The parents of Ashley Peacock have demanded his release from Tawhirimatea secure mental health unit in Porirua, saying he's effectively kept in solitary confinement.

In February, inspectors for the ombudsman visited the unit run by Capital & Coast DHB and a report by Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier has now become public under the Official Information Act.

The report says the unit is tired but reasonably well maintained and clients are positive about care and facilities.

But seclusion records are incomplete and a client previously identified as living in a seclusion room on a semi-permanent basis was still living in a seclusion room.

"I consider this client's living situation to be cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for the purpose of the Convention Against Torture," the ombudsman said.

He says a more appropriate facility needs to be found for the client, as twice recommended previously.

The DHB says seclusion is used as a last resort.

"Despite what the report implies, no one lives in seclusion," says Nigel Fairley, the DHB's mental health, addictions and intellectual disability services general manager.

"Over the past five years CCDHB has seen a reduction in the overall use of both restraint and seclusion. We continue to be among the lowest users of seclusion nationally."

He said some clients at the Tawhirimatea unit have trouble coping with a general ward environment and attempt to assault staff or other clients on a regular basis.

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said the mental health system in New Zealand is failing.

"The health minister has repeatedly resisted my calls for an inquiry into mental health services, but as one appalling case after another comes to light, it is unfathomable that he would continue to do so," Mr Hague said.

He said there was a lack of accountability from DHB services.

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