Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Questions (49)

James Browne


49. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Health if he will report on the construction of the National Forensic Mental Health Service complex at Portrane, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5262/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Health)

Will the Minister report on the construction of the National Forensic Mental Health Service complex at Portrane, County Dublin?

I thank the Deputy for the opportunity to update the House on this project. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, visited the project this afternoon. I am pleased to advise that construction is currently under way for the National Forensic Mental Health Service Hospital and is due to be completed at the end of the year. It is anticipated this new facility will open in 2020, following its equipping and commissioning. The new 170 single-bedroom National Forensic Mental Service Hospital is designed to facilitate segregated high and medium secure services. It will include a number of shared facilities, which will comprise the 130-bedroom National Forensic Hospital to replace the existing 94-bed Central Mental Hospital complex at Dundrum. It will also include a co-located ten-bedroom forensic child and adolescent mental health unit and a 30-bedroom intensive care rehabilitation unit, ICRU.

The new complex will position Ireland’s forensic mental health service as a world leader in best clinical practice. Developing mental health services remains a priority for the Government, as I know it is for the Deputy. Budget 2019 provided an additional €55 million for new developments in mental health, which brings overall HSE mental health funding to nearly €1 billion this year. This funding will help to make mental health services more person-centred, user-friendly, responsive to need, and recovery orientated. Separate from the project team responsible for the construction and commissioning phases of the new facility, the HSE recently established a high-level governance group for the transition of the forensic mental health service from the old Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, to Portrane.

I hope the service provided within the new hospital in Portrane will be world class. The difficulty with this project is similar to much of our healthcare and concerns whether it will be possible to access the services provided. That provision will put us at approximately just two such beds per 100,000 people. The international norm is between five and nine per 100,000. We are significantly behind and this has led in the past to some significant criticisms from Professor Harry Kennedy. He has been critical of the difficulty of getting people in our prisons with serious mental health issues into the Central Mental Hospital due to a lack of places. Is this project is expected to finish on or under budget?

The short answer is "Yes". I was out there today and met with the team. We have continued to engage with them. I must also compliment the HSE which has been successful in this project. It began clearing the site in 2017 and the keys will be handed over by the builder in October 2019. The project is coming in within budget. No issues are arising in that respect. The completion date is ahead of schedule and it will be a state-of-the-art hospital. From a capacity point of view, and to address the issue that the Deputy raised and the fears expressed by Professor Kennedy and others, we are going from 92 beds in the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum to 170 beds in the new facility in Portrane. That is almost a doubling of capacity when it comes to forensic mental health. As the Minister said, there will be a ten-bed CAMHS unit and a 30-bed ICRU. Capacity will be significantly improved as a result of this development. It is a testament to the ability of the HSE to deal with and manage this project very well, thus far. I acknowledge that.

Perhaps the Minister of State might examine why this project was able to come in on time and on budget in comparison to the national children's hospital. He has been economical with the numbers in respect of 170 beds. We are moving from 92 to 130 forensic beds. The other beds are welcome, but ten are for children and 30 are for intensive rehabilitation. They are additional beds, which are needed, but they are not replacement beds. We are comparing the current 92 beds to 130 beds that will be provided.

It was highlighted previously that about 28 people were waiting in prison last summer to get access to the Central Mental Hospital. Does the Minister know how many are currently waiting to access to that hospital? How many patients within the Prison Service are being serviced by inreach teams from the Central Mental Hospital?

I differ with the Deputy's view that this is not an increase in capacity. I accept that the ten CAMHS beds may not be an increase in capacity but the other 30 ICRU beds in that unit are intended to get people out of the system. We are not just building a prison; we are building a hospital that is transformative, where there is care and from where people will progress. That is why there will be an ICRU. That is a progressive step and it will be ideally suited to many of the patients currently in the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum. That is, therefore, an increase in capacity. We have 160 beds, so we will be going from 92 to 160. I agree with the Deputy in respect of the prison population and the lack of opportunities for them. That is especially the case with rehabilitation to improve their well-being and move them on from the system. That is very much the focus. An ICRU is a first for Ireland. It is a progressive development and one to be acknowledged by all.