15 Dec 2011

Coroner recommends DHB review assessment procedures

5:21 am on 15 December 2011

A coroner has recommended that Wanganui District Health Board review its assessment procedures for potential suicide victims following the death of a farmer.

The woman, whom coroner Tim Scott says had a major drinking problem, took her own life at a farm in November last year.

The woman cannot be identified, but Mr Scott is critical of the Wanganui DHB's mental health service assessment procedures.

He says if there are family support present at an assessment, these people should be spoken to independently and separately from the patient.

He says a patient's answers to questions should on no account be taken at face value, but should always be challenged.

Mr Scott says a questioning protocol should be developed so that it becomes difficult for a patient or support person to provide responses simply designed to convey that all is well when it is not.

The DHB says it supports the coroner's recommendations and is reviewing its assessment procedures.

The board's director of mental services, Jeff Hammond, says it has made the recommended changes.

However, Mr Hammond says it can't guarantee that in all circumstances close family will speak out on such matters.