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DHB member joins call for national mental health inquiry

by Tom Furley, RNZ National, 12 October 2016

Mr Furley reports on renewed calls for a national inquiry into mental health services in New Zealand following a murder-suicide last week by mental health patient Ross Bremner.

The 34-year-old had a number of brief in-patient stays at Waikato Hospital’s specialist mental health unit between 2003 and 2007, and spent six weeks in hospital in 2013.

Since then he had been living in the community under the care of his GP, with support from DHB services.

MidCentral Health DHB member Lindsay Burnell said there was huge pressure on the system, not just in Waikato but in other areas, including his own.

Staff at MidCentral’s mental health unit had been working double shifts – an issue experienced by other DHBs, he said.

“There is a lot of huge unmet demand out there. The mental health teams will be choosing who they help and of course you’ve just seen what’s happened in Waikato,” he said.

“You choose the wrong people to help at that time because you’re under stress and you’ll finish up with bad consequences.”

Labour’s health spokesperson Annette King has already called for a review following the Bremner incident and said mental health services across the country had reached breaking point.

“I do think we have far too many reports of failures in mental health now to ignore it. There does need to be a more comprehensive review,” Mrs King said.

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