We firmly believe that service users, or people with lived experience, must be involved in the mental health system at all stages and levels if we wish to continually improve our services.
A key theme in the current mental health policy, ‘Sharing the Vision’, is the right of mental health service users to be centrally involved in their own care and recovery. Achieving service user involvement at all levels of the mental health system and ensuring that they are facilitated to contribute to policy and planning in a meaningful way, has always been - and remains - a priority for the MHC.
The MHC has a Stakeholder Forum, its membership drawn from people with lived experience of mental health services. As experts by experience their views and feedback is sought and assists us in our development work.
Involving service users in the formation of MHC reports, discussion papers, consultations and reviews provides insight into what these experts by experience value and require during their journey through inpatient mental health services. Service users can help us identify and highlight areas that are working well, as well as parts of services that require improvement.
Perhaps most critically, listening to and heeding the advice and input of service users can ultimately help ensure that services better meet individual needs, which, in turn, leads to higher quality mental health services.
Since our establishment, the MHC has repeatedly and consistently sought the views of service users and we will continue to do so on a regular basis.
Our inspection teams speak to service users during each inspection of the approved centres, while they also distribute a questionnaire to service users during these visits. The inspection team also meet with representatives from the Irish Advocacy Network on each inspection, and they arrange a more comprehensive sit-down with the same group annually to discuss key issues and themes from a service user perspective.
Service users – and, indeed, other members of the public - are welcome to get in touch with the MHC at any time if they have an issue of concern about a mental health service of which they feel we should be aware. These issues are considered and acted upon immediately, or they are taken under consideration during the next inspection. Click here to find out more about reporting an issue of concern.
The MHC will also seek to consult service users when they are developing and reviewing standards. We have sought service user views as part of various public consultations, such as the formation of national standards for adult safeguarding; the conduct of reviews of patient safety incidents; and the development of a seclusion and physical restraint reduction strategy.
In more recent times, we sought the views of service users for the development of the MHC 2023-2027 Strategy, ‘‘Supporting Change’, which is applicable for the years 2023 to 2027.’; and we consulted with relevant patient groups during the updating of our guide for people who are involuntary detained.
The Commission (our Board) regularly seeks presentations from stakeholder groups so they can hear directly or indirectly from service users and further inform their work, while the Executive of the MHC partook in several public meetings across the country in 2019 and 2020, an initiative they hope to immediately resume once public health guidance permits.