28 Jul 2015

DHB inspection should go further - patient's father

12:49 pm on 28 July 2015

The father of a patient who died under the care of the Henry Bennett Centre says an inspection of the Waikato District Health Board's mental health services is overdue - but does not go far enough.

National MP, Jonathan Coleman.

National MP, Jonathan Coleman. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announced the inspection yesterday, saying the Government wanted to restore trust in the DHB's services.

It will be conducted by the Ministry of Health's director of mental health, Dr John Crawshaw.

The inspection follows recent high-profile cases at the DHB, including the death of 21-year-old Nicky Stevens who drowned in the Waikato River in March after going missing from the Henry Bennett Centre in Hamilton.

Three people, on two different occasions, have since escaped the facility, and on Saturday, a man appeared in court facing charges of fraud following an investigation into whether he used another person's qualifications to work as a psychiatrist.

Mr Stevens' father, Dave Macpherson, said the inspection was a baby-step in the right direction, but was not independent enough.

"We're a bit concerned about the lack of independence of who is actually doing it.

"The director of mental health, Dr John Crawshaw, is leading this, but he is also the person that has been advising the DHB in their responses to us," he said.

Waikato DHB had already launched an inquiry into the mental health and addictions service, but that was put on hold as a criminal investigation in Mr Stevens death is underway.

Mr Macpherson said he wanted an independent inquiry, with families being consulted over the process.

A spokesperson for Supporting Families in Mental Illness, Jim Crowe, said the Waikato DHB's mental health services should be completely taken apart and rebuilt.

He said the latest case of an alleged fraudster would be a blow to the families involved.

"They always hope that the person they are seeing is going to be of a very high standard and one that they can trust.

"This is going to impact tremendously on the trust those families have for the Waikato services."

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements also welcomed the inspection, saying there have been "some troubling things happening".

"The quality of the service for those who need it is the most important thing, and I hope Dr Crawshaw's team includes people with service-user experience and family," she said.

Waikato DHB chief executive Nigel Murray said recent events may have undermined the confidence in the service and that needed to be restored.

He said both the DHB and the Medical Council were investigating how the man was hired.

He said about 25 of the man's 100 patients are being contacted and offered support.

Dr Crawshaw will report back in up to eight weeks, when it will be decided whether a further inquiry is needed.

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