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The outgoing General Secretary of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) Des Kavanagh has called for changes in the law that denies a psychiatrist the right to share information on the condition of their patients with those required to care for and support them.

Speaking at the PNA Annual Delegate Conference in Carlow today (Friday, 21 st April) where he retired after serving 25 years as General Secretary, Mr Kavanagh described the inability under present law of a psychiatrist to share information on their patients with family, including parents and partners as reckless and irresponsible.

‘Psychiatrists are faced on a regular basis with the challenge of deciding who from amongst the not yet recovered patients can be discharged so that a bed can be freed up for an emergency admission. The decision will be made to discharge the person with the best chance of maintaining their improvement at home with the support of family, parents or partners. Yet the patient may deny the psychiatrist the right to share information on his condition with those now required to care for and support him.'

‘Currently the psychiatrist cannot act contrary to the instructions of the patient. In my view this is reckless and irresponsible and Government should move to give rights to those parents, partners, who are so willing to care for their sick family member so that in doing so they are fully aware of all risks associated with their loved one's condition and the precautions they may wish to take to ensure their own safety and that of others.'

Mr Kavanagh said the mental health services need to support these families who are equally entitled to meaningful support including education and training regarding their family members' mental health condition and any risks associated with that condition.

Mr Kavanagh also expressed concerns at the numbers of people with serious mental ill health being imprisoned. He said that while we have seen the welcome closure of mental hospitals we have not seen these replaced with appropriate mental health services and with the result there appears be a growing reliance on our prisons to incarcerate those with serious mental illness.

‘I am extremely disappointed and angry when I think of the numbers of people with serious mental ill health incarcerated in our prisons. Vision for Change recommended the building of Intensive Care Rehabilitation Units (ICRUs) across the country to cater for those persons with enduring mental illness. Ten years later none of them have been provided. Instead, services which were in existence to cater for those persons who posed a risk to themselves and society were closed down and bit by bit the prison population of seriously mentally ill persons increased from 3% of the prison population in 2006 to over 8% now.'

Media Contact : Derek Cunningham 086-2430535