Mental Health Commission strategy to promote and vindicate human rights of people using services

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The Mental Health Commission (MHC) has launched a new quality framework which they believe will help to drive excellence in services over the coming years.

The announcement of a new ‘National Quality Framework’ came at the launch by the Minister for Mental Health, Mary Butler, of the MHC’s new strategic plan, entitled ‘Supporting Change’, which is applicable for the years 2023 to 2027.

Both the strategic plan and the quality framework were developed to align with and support the roll-out of the country’s mental health policy, ‘Sharing the Vision’, which is currently being implemented, and in anticipation of the expansion of the MHC’s regulatory remit in the near future.

It is the seventh strategy for the MHC since its establishment in 2002 and builds on the significant work undertaken by the regulator since the full commencement of its functions in 2006. The strategy also sets out the MHC’s ambition to operationalise a best-in-class Decision Support Service (DSS) on behalf of the State over the next five years.

Launching the strategy Minister Butler said: “I would like to commend the Mental Health Commission for its important and independent role in supporting and assisting us in developing and improving mental health services since 2006. The functions of the MHC will expand significantly with the launch of the Decision Support Service next week, and I welcome the vision as set out in the MHC’s Strategic Plan of a person-centred, high-quality, mental health service and decision support service accessible to all those who need it. The new National Quality Framework, also launched today, will help provide clear guidance and support to all mental health services on how to improve services and meet its high standards.

The Minister added: “Both the Strategic Plan and the National Quality Framework fully align with ‘Sharing the Vision’, which has already seen good progress made in its first years of implementation. The plan and the framework also take account of planned changes in the new Mental Health Bill, particularly the expansion of the MHC’s regulatory remit to include all community mental health residences and services. I expect to bring the Bill before the Oireachtas later this year. I look forward to continuing to work with the MHC as it implements its new Strategic Plan and National Quality Framework as part of the continued implementation of ‘Sharing the Vision’ and the overall improvement of mental health services across the country for all people experiencing mental health difficulties.”

The Chairperson of the Mental Health Commission, Dr John Hillery, said, “We will work with the Government, people using services, clinicians and service providers to strengthen the standards, quality and regulatory infrastructure, which protect human rights and continually improve service quality.

“The new strategy charts an ambitious course for the next five years to realise the MHC’s vision of an Ireland with equity of access to person-centred mental health services and decision support services that deliver high-quality care and support.”

The new National Quality Framework sets out the themes, standards and associated criteria considered essential for driving high standards and supporting continuous improvement, while emphasising a recovery-oriented and rights-based approach to service provision. It is the result of an extensive consultation process; evidence review; and a review of quality frameworks in other countries.

“Significant change has taken place in mental health services nationally and internationally since the publication of the original quality framework in 2007,” said the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Commission, John Farrelly. “In 2022, on foot of the publication of ‘Sharing the Vision’, the MHC commenced a collaborative process with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) to research and develop the new framework which, it is important to note, is applicable to all mental health services in the public, voluntary and independent sectors.

“This includes inpatient mental health services, community residences, and community mental health services for adults, children and adolescents, older persons, persons with an intellectual disability and a mental illness, and forensic mental health services.”

The Director of Regulation at the Mental Health Commission, Gary Kiernan, said that the national quality framework includes a new digitised ‘self-appraisal toolkit’ designed to assist mental health services to efficiently conduct online self-assessments and to have oversight of quality criteria across multiple sites at service, regional and national levels.

“The updated national quality framework aims to provide clear guidance for people using mental health services, and their families and representatives, so they know what to expect in terms of quality and so that they are empowered to ask the right questions when they are not satisfied with their care,” said Mr Kiernan.

“It provides a mechanism for services to move beyond attainment of regulatory requirements, which are minimum standards, to continuously focussing on and improving outcomes for people who use services. We look forward to working with service providers to support the successful implementation of the revised national quality framework.”