You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

MoH hesitant toward mental health review

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/05/2017 Karen Sweeney

Ministry of Health officials have appeared hesitant to back a full review of the nation's mental health services, prompting questions about whether they'd be defensive in a review.

The government's health select committee is considering the idea based on the petition of Corinda Taylor and the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust.

Last week Ms Taylor, who lost a son to suicide, said there was an unprecedented agreement between families, patients and the workforce that the system is broken.

Her petition to Parliament is the second on the topic in just weeks, following a call from Action Station in response to the People's Mental Health Report.

But Health Minister Jonathan Coleman told reporters on Wednesday that he "hadn't heard" the committee was investigating those calls.

"Let's just see what they come up with," he said when asked for his opinion on whether an inquiry was needed.

When Ministry of Health officials were called to give their presentation on the topic on Wednesday they told the committee, chaired by National MP Simon O'Connor, that there was already "substantial activity" underway in the mental health sector.

Director and chief mental health advisor John Crawshaw raised the issue of the review being a distraction.

"One of the factors we are very conscious of is there is an awful lot of activity that is occurring in the sector to improve the mental health services ... the question is does it distract," he said.

When questioned further about the potential for distraction by Labour's health spokesman David Clark, Dr Crawshaw said his concern was continuing progress on initiatives already underway "which we don't want to lose traction on".

During the 25 minute presentation chief strategy and policy officer Hamiora Bowkett admitted the ministry had not recommended a review be carried out, despite admitting there were things that could be done better in the sector.

He said a cross-agency strategy was being prepared and many issues raised in Ms Taylor's petition aligned with the strategy's aims.

The final decision on a review will be decided by the committee, but Mr Clark questioned whether the ministry would co-operate.

"I'm just wanting to know if you'd be comfortable with a review or whether you would be defensive at the Ministry of Health about being reviewed on mental health issues and the provision of services," he asked, pointing out their early hesitance.

Dr Crawshaw offered a typical public servant's response.

"We always serve the government of the day and Parliament ... I'm always open to discussion and debate because my passion is to improve services," he said.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon