Some of those suffering from mental disorders in Ulster are not getting a fair deal, a watchdog body claimed today.
The Northern Ireland Mental Health Commission, set up two years ago by the Department of Health to monitor care and treatment of patients, says community facilities for people leaving long-stay institutions are not keeping pace with rehabilitation programmes.
And the 12-member team, chaired by Mr Brian Kerr QC, says some patients could be losing out because not all professional staff work together as a team.
Surprise, surprise! This is obviously the same Mr Brian Kerr QC who is quoted by Official Solicitor Mr Brian Hall in paragraph 29 of his Report to the High Court, quote, "The Patient now resides at 4 Norwood Gardens, Belfast which was purchased by an Assignment dated 24 November 1975 for the sum of £23,500. I have already indicated, in paragraph 9 above, that the view already taken by Mr Drennan in the course of his preliminary enquiries that it was in the Patient's best interests to move to a smaller and more manageable property is shared by me and by Mr Kerr." Also in paragraph 9, quote, "Mr Kerr states in his Opinion "One can be unequivocal in stating that [the sale of 14 Castlehill Road] was undoubtedly in his [the Patient's] best interests." Presenting the Commission's first report, Mr Kerr said he was aware that many members of the public did not know the monitoring body existed.
But under the Mental Health Order of 1986 members investigate any concerns of patients or relatives from their base on Belfast's Holywood Road.
Since May 1986 the team has looked into 25 written complaints ranging from management of patients' property to lack of care.
More people are admitted to mental hospitals in Northern Ireland than any other part of the UK - although vice-chairman Mr Robin Davidson said this was more a reflection of how care was delivered than an indication of a higher incidence of mental problems.
On resettlement of patients in the community he said he felt Northern Ireland's progress was "pitched just right".
Unlike England there had been no major hospital closures, and the six mental hospitals in Northern Ireland remain open.
There had been no problems of exploitation by the private sector in providing accommodation and it did not appear that mentally ill people were being lost into the homeless population either.
"However, we have seen on occasions people who have been through rehabilitation programmes and who are ready to leave long-stay institutions but cannot be released,"he said.
"The rate of rehabilitation in these cases has not been matched by the development of community facilities, particularly day facilities.
"There is reason for concern but one should not over estimate it," he said.