PSA to Minister Coleman: How many more deaths will it take?

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New Zealand’s mental health system is spiralling deeper into crisis, the Public Service Association says, and urgently needs a wide-ranging probe into funding and supporting workers delivering vital services.

The PSA says overcrowding and overwork continue to be major issues in the system, and repeated tragic events have failed to deliver the system-wide change that’s needed.

The Green Party’s health spokesperson Kevin Hague has released proposed terms of reference for a nationwide inquiry.

He says two recent reviews after the deaths of Shaun Gray and Nicky Stevens showed inpatient services were so strained that the system went "catastrophically wrong".

PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says this aligns with what the union’s members have been saying for months.

"They’re severely overworked and they’ve raised concerns about the safety of both their patients and their staff," Ms Polaczuk says.

"We’ve repeatedly called for an inquiry, but health minister Jonathan Coleman doesn’t listen.

"He says mental health is ‘incredibly complex’ and yet he’s the only one who can order the kind of review which will untangle the system and solve the problems at its heart.

"How many more tragic deaths will it take before he pays attention?

"The ringfence around mental health funding should be put back in place, and a proper audit conducted to determine whether the system can cope with the projected soaring demand.

"We also want mental health to be properly resourced - so our members can do their work, and their clients can receive the support they need."

Mr Hague has also called for the reinstatement of the Mental Health Commission, which was disbanded by the government in 2012.

"The PSA would welcome a discussion about the role a Commissioner could play - and how it might monitor and address the issues of overcrowding, staffing and continuity of care," Ms Polaczuk says.