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The creation of the six new health regions will help integration of mental and physical healthcare, outgoing Minister for Health Simon Harris informed the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland in correspondence.
In September, the College’s Faculty of Liaison Psychiatry raised concerns with the Minister regarding integration between services under the Sláintecare plan.
In November, Mr Matthew O’Gorman, Private Secretary at the Department of Health, replied on behalf of Minister Harris.
Mr O’Gorman’s letter stated that the Minister “shares your view that where care is truly integrated, the outcomes for patients are much better”.
The letter indicated that the creation of regional care organisations “will enable a better planned and more fairly funded system with services that are more joined-up and able to provide truly integrated care”.
In its letter, the Faculty of Liaison Psychiatry stated that after publication of Sláintecare, “we were disappointed and disheartened to see little mention of integration of mental and physical healthcare in any of the key documents that followed”.
“Where care is truly integrated, the outcomes for patients are much better. Unfortunately, essential integrated mental health services are often at most an afterthought in the design of specialist services such as those for cystic fibrosis, transplantation, etc.
“We strongly recommend and call for the inclusion of essential integration of mental and physical healthcare in the scope for the implementation of Sláintecare.
“True parity of esteem of mental and physical healthcare with improved and greater outcomes and reduced cost of hospital care is not possible without this.”
Separately, in his reply on behalf of Minister Harris, Mr O’Gorman noted that the Department “will publish a refreshed national mental health policy” this year.
“The refreshed policy seeks to ensure that mental health is at the centre of healthcare provision in Ireland and aligned fully with Sláintecare. The refreshed policy will make recommendations about developing a mental health service that is population-based, supported by whole of Government and encourages interdisciplinary working.”
According to the Department, it is finalising “a revised national mental health policy”. This work is “nearing completion and will be published as soon as it can be approved by Government”.