Ministry apologises to Mental Health Minister, reworking options over Suicide Prevention Office

  • 06/04/2024

The Ministry of Health has apologised to Mental Health Minister Matt Doocey for failing to fully brief him on its proposal to take an axe to the Suicide Prevention Office.

On Thursday it was revealed the Ministry of Health was proposing to cut 134 jobs to meet the Government's cost reduction demands - including getting rid of six out of eight roles in the specialist office.

Ministry of Health Deputy Director-General of Clinical Community and Mental Health Robyn Shearer said the proposal came from changes in priorities, and a focus on efficiency improvements and organisational structure coherency.

"We have also made these changes in order to meet our future budget, as a result of an end to time-limited funding and to meet savings requirements," she said at the time.

But Doocey, New Zealand's first-ever Mental Health Minister, was blindsided by the proposal.

"The closure of the Suicide Prevention Office has not been raised with me and I have spoken with the Director-General of Health to make my expectations clear that the office will remain open and that the suicide prevention work programme will continue," he said.

Now the Ministry has backed down and issued an apology to Doocey.

"The Minister has stated his expectation that the Suicide Prevention Office remains open. As a result, we are developing options to work through with the Minister early next week," Shearer said in a statement on Saturday.

"We acknowledge we did not sufficiently brief the Minister of Mental Health on our change proposals. The Ministry is sorry for the confusion that this has caused."

Shearer said the Ministry of Health is "committed to ensuring there is strong and visible leadership of suicide prevention in any new organisational structure" and has provided that assurance to the minister.

Ministry staff are being consulted on proposals including combining suicide prevention expertise with other teams to "elevate the importance of suicide prevention within the broader mental health work programme".