Open main menu Close main menu
News article

Contrasting results for two mental health units operating side by side

Issue date:

Two mental health inpatient facilities have yielded very different inspection results despite being run by the same District Health Board and being within metres of each other on the same hospital grounds, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says.

Stanford House, a secure forensic rehabilitation unit, is on the grounds of Whanganui Hospital next door to Te Awhina, an acute mental health unit.

Reports on both units, which were inspected at the same time in September last year, were published today by Mr Boshier.

He described Stanford House as an example of best practice in the treatment of those detained in forensic mental health facilities.

There were no seclusion or restraint events at the unit in the period following its last inspection in 2017, and Mr Boshier made no recommendations for improvement.

“This report provides a rare example of comprehensive best practice and demonstrates what can be achieved with existing resources. Publication of this report will give other comparable facilities a description of best practice which may be emulated,” Mr Boshier says.

In contrast, Mr Boshier has made 14 recommendations following the inspection of Te Awhina next door.

He highlighted the use of seclusion there, saying Māori were disproportionately represented in seclusion data – both in the use of seclusion and the hours in seclusion. In addition, seclusion paperwork did not tally and he is concerned seclusion is not being accurately reported.

“To ensure the humane and equitable treatment of Māori and to act consistently with the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi / the Treaty of Waitangi, it is necessary to recognise and remedy the disproportionality as a matter of urgency,” Mr Boshier says.

Te Awhina accepted 11 of the recommendations, including the majority related to seclusion, and partially accepted three.

The inspections were carried out under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989. New Zealand is a signatory to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), an international human rights agreement.

Read the reports here:

Editor’s note

New Zealand ratified the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2007. The Protocol requires States to establish independent National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) to regularly inspect places of detention and report on the treatment and conditions of those held within them.

The Chief Ombudsman was originally designated as a National Preventive Mechanism under OPCAT in 2009 which means he monitors places of detention designated to him, such as health and disability facilities, to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

He can recommend practical improvements to address any risks, poor practices, or systemic problems that could result in a service-user being treated badly. Follow-up inspections are conducted to look for progress in implementing previous recommendations. Reports are written on what is observed at the time of inspection.

Find out more about the Chief Ombudsman’s role in examining and monitoring places of detention, and read other OPCAT reports:

Follow the Ombudsman NZ on social media:

Last updated: