27 Mar 2016

Boost to Northland mental health services

9:46 pm on 27 March 2016

Northland Health is about to take on up to 20 more staff to cope with a growing number of mental health patients.

Chief executive Nick Chamberlain said an external review of mental health services had found they were severely stretched with patient numbers growing by 5 percent a year.

Dr Chamberlain ordered the review because of concern at the risk posed to patients and staff by growing demand.

He said more patients were acutely-ill than in the past, and the 25 bed acute unit at Whangarei hospital was constantly full.

Factors in the rise were poverty, substance abuse, and the high number of young Māori with mental health problems.

The review team found the service has suffered from a lack of clear planning and resources; the absence of any philosophy of care, and a shortage of inpatient beds that has compromised care for the severely ill.

Dr Chamberlain said Northland Health would find the money to increase beds in the acute unit, take on more intensive care staff, and restructure the management of its mental health service.