17 Apr 2016

DHB budgets costing lives: Green Party

6:20 pm on 17 April 2016

The Green Party is calling for an urgent public health inquiry into mental health services, but the health minister says there's no need.

Kevin Hague.

Kevin Hague. Photo: GREEN PARTY

The call followed a report into the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) mental health services which found staff were struggling to cope with an increase in demand for treatment.

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said an increasing number of mental health services were of poor quality and failed to meet people's needs.

People in the sector were pointing the finger at low funding.

"The mental health services were being required to keep vacancies open, rosters were being set based on funding rather than safe clinical ratios," he said.

"All of that suggests the financial pressure DHBs are under is spilling over into mental health services where it is costing lives."

Mr Hague said he would be prepared to work with the government in setting up an inquiry.

But Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said there were processes in place for dealing with patient complaints in the health system.

Funding for mental health was protected by a ring fence, meaning DHBs can never spend less than the previous year on mental health services, Dr Coleman said.

The Green Party regularly called for inquiries, and this was yet another example, he said.