Savings over safety –- and a culture of blame

The long-awaited review of mental health services in County Roscommon, which was finally published on Tuesday, contains scathing criticisms of staff and management attitudes and highlights a number of systems failures within the service locally.

  The damning report, carried out on behalf of the HSE by an external team of experts, concluded that the mental health service in County Roscommon was marked by “control, negativity and a culture of blame.”

  The report was due to be published in March of 2016 but has only now been completed and released.

  In a shock determination, the report’s authors said some senior staff in the service “normalised bad behaviour and others perpetrated it.”

  On Tuesday, local TDs and Senators and HSE Forum members were briefed on the report during a two-hour meeting with Mr. Tony Canavan, Head of Mental Health Services in the HSE West area. The meeting was held in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon.

  The report, which was undertaken after allegations of improper sexual contacts at a facility in the county in 2014 and 2015, reveals several serious system failures throughout the service.

  The report says that in Roscommon “innovation and drive were stifled” and that the overall service was not based on “effective team work.”

  It says that the service in Roscommon was marked by “control, negativity and a culture of blame.”

  The report goes on to say: “Some senior staff normalised bad behaviour and others perpetrated it.” The reports also says that a strong financial focus was excessive and was “to the detriment of its staff working conditions, and patient care.” The report notes a renewed synergy has been evident since the appointment of an Area Manager.

   A number of allegations are contained in the report of staff being targeted by senior staff, union domination, mistrust of fellow staff, low morale and a poor relationship between some staff and management. The report says that ”the majority of staff interviewed felt frustrated, disillusioned and unsupported with the multi-disciplinary team setting.” A small number of staff did not take part or co-operate with the report.

   The report also says that its authors are “satisfied that Roscommon mental health service has highly skilled and motivated staff, however the fractured interpersonal relationships between key members prevented the development of a therapeutic network where collegiality is central. The result of this was a system where staff felt unsupported clinically to the detriment of safe and effective care for patients.”

  Speaking after the publication, Mr. Tony Canavan, Area Manager for Mental Health Services in HSE West, said that he was committed to implementing the 27 recommendations contained in the report.

  He also revealed that no disciplinary measures were taken against any staff member as a result of the findings of the report.

  The report was carried out by three consultants from the South and Eastern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland, namely Dr. Brendan Mullan, Dr. Don Bradley and Dr. Niall Quigley.