Mental health: Serious lack of crisis facilities, says expert panel
An expert commission set up to look at Northern Ireland's mental health services has said there is a serious lack of crisis specialist facilities.
The panel said that includes provision for people with eating disorders.
It said there must be funding parity between mental and physical health.
It recommends significant changes to the way mental health services are organised, including the introduction of a maximum four-hour waiting time for admission to an acute psychiatric ward.
The independent commission was led by Lord Nigel Crisp and supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland.
Lord Crisp said he and his team had travelled the length and breadth of Northern Ireland looking at inpatient service "finding much to like but still not enough being done".
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said there was much to build on.
The report is highly critical about the shortage of facilities in spite of Northern Ireland having the highest rates of suicide and mental illness in the UK.
Set up last year to examine the issues facing patients requiring emergency hospital care, the panel also confirmed that the shortage of crisis home treatment teams is serious.
It reinforces calls from charities over the years that there are too few specialist psychiatric services for men and women with eating and personality disorders.
There was criticism about the level of support for women with mental health issues both before and after birth.
Dr Gerry Lynch, the Northern Ireland chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, welcomed the report.
"Mental health can be just as serious as cancer, or someone being diagnosed with a stroke or a heart condition," he said.
"Those with mental health problems die 20 years sooner than those with good health.
"We need the funding in Northern Ireland to match the demand for mental health services.
"There must be parity between mental and physical health."
He added: "This gives us an opportunity to take forward the Bamford vision and local health professionals are also demanding that overseas treatment for patients comes to an end."
For decades, mental health provision in Northern Ireland has been referred to as the "Cinderella service" with demand for assistance far out stripping supply.
According to several charities, their calls over the years have fallen on deaf ears.
It is hoped now that those in the Department of Health will listen to their concerns.