“Now one of the country’s leading providers of mental health services, Highfield Healthcare, will open a new day hospital later this month in the same grounds where one of Ireland’s first-ever psychiatric hospitals was established almost 200 years ago. Peter Doyle reports;
“Highfield Healthcare is highly regarded for the provision of acute mental health treatment and care for adults and older persons with acute, serious and enduring mental health disorders and complex mental health issues associated with neuropsychiatric disorders and dementia,” one of its newest appointments, Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Leena Naughton, told Irish Medical Times (IMT).
“Highfield has a long-established history of providing care
that is value-driven and underpinned by person-centeredness and quality,” added
Dr Naughton, who joined the Highfield team last October.
Its vision to develop acute mental health services, she added,
was being realised with a recent increase in the number of general adult
inpatient beds and opening of a second day hospital.
“The organisation is now one of the leading providers of
acute and specialist mental health services in Ireland and the only private
service delivering the most innovative models of treatment and care in our Day
Hospital,” continued Dr Naughton.
Highfield’s “long-established history” can be traced to Dr
John Eustace, a physician who worked at the Cork Street Fever Hospital but left
his post in 1825 to set up one of Ireland’s first-ever hospitals for the
mentally ill on farmland owned by his family in the Whitehall district of
Dr Eustace was a Quaker and members of the Christian
movement advocated a holistic approach when treating people who had been
diagnosed with mental illness.
This philosophy, which was considered radical at the time,
has remained central to Highfield Healthcare after the business was begun by Dr
Eustace’s sons, John and Marcus, in the second half of the 19th Century.
As stated on Highfield’s website
(www.highfieldhealthcare.ie), “the mentally ill have always been with us, but
for no family is this truer than for the Eustace family”.
“While the treatment and care of mental illness is, in our
day, accepted as one of the duties of a caring society, we must remember, that
when John Eustace opened the doors of Hampstead Hospital in 1825, old attitudes
were only beginning to change,” the Family History section of the website
“The mentally ill were still outcasts, still ‘lunatics’, the
majority of them being treated with coercion and restraint. The State’s policy
of providing asylums was only developing and it would be a long time before
these became caring and therapeutic institutions.”
Caring and therapeutic institutions
Six generations later, the Eustace family runs four private
healthcare services with a total of 150 beds, on the same site as the original
Almost four years ago, in November 2016; the Hampstead
Clinic, which provides general adult mental health service, was expanded to
include a Day Hospital service with capacity for 12 people.
Two years later, in October 2018, a 12-bed specialist
rehabilitation unit (SRU) for people with severe and enduring mental illness
was established. More recently, the acute general adult inpatient bed capacity
was increased from 11 to 21 beds and a second day hospital opened on the
Dr Naughton said it was envisaged that by 2025 “the
configuration of mental health inpatient services will further divide to
accommodate a higher volume of acute inpatient services by a reducing number of
residents with long-stay mental health issues”.
Day hospital services will hopefully be relocated and/or
developed within the community, she added.
Day hospital services
“It is envisaged that the development and recognition of
Highfield Healthcare as a centre for learning with established affiliations to
the various third level Institutions will be at an advanced stage and supported
by state-of-the-art educational and training facilities on campus,” said Dr
Key to Highfield‘s future plans is the new day hospital.
“This will provide comprehensive psychiatric assessment, diagnosis and
integrated treatment tailored to individual needs, and will be carried out by a
multidisciplinary team led by a consultant psychiatrist,” explained Dr
The range of therapies and activities on offer at the day
hospital include a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), to help service users
discover for themselves simple and safe wellness tools; psychoeducation, to
help them understand their diagnosis, pharmacotherapy benefits and side effects
and also the impact medicines have on day-to-day life.
Service users will also learn about decider skills, which can
help them not only recognise their own thoughts, feelings and behaviours but
also how best to monitor and manage them.
By addressing issues like distress tolerance, mindfulness,
interpersonal effectiveness and skills for emotional regulations, explained Dr
Naughton, decider skills can help control impulsive behaviours such as
self-harm, avoidance, and withdrawal. The new day hospital will also carry out
social work assessments; occupational therapy assessments; family work, when
needed; cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) group work and one-to-one sessions,
if needed; and art and music therapy; and cookery skills also.
Treatment and management of patients
“I was attracted to Highfield Healthcare’s passion towards
serving mental illness and dedication to patient care,” said Dr Naughton who
completed her medical school training postgraduation in psychiatry in her
“My approach to treatment and management of patients is
focused on individualised needs and their complete recovery along with
remission of their illness leading to social reintegration and improvement in
quality of life,” she added.
“This treatment philosophy will be at the heart of my
multidisciplinary team within the Hampstead inpatient unit and new Day Hospital
services at Highfield Healthcare.”
Comprehensive experience/cross-cultural psychiatry
Shortly after completing her medical training in India, and
before she travelled to Ireland to work for the Health Service Executive (HSE)
as a Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Naughton was part of the research team that
carried out the largest epidemiological of Alzheimer’s disease in India.
“I gained comprehensive experience in general adult, child
psychiatry, eating disorders, learning disability, addiction and forensic
psychiatry through my basic and higher specialist training,” said Dr Naughton,
who is fluent in four languages (English, Hindi, Marathi and Urdu). Being
multilingual helps her assess patients from numerous backgrounds in their native
“My exposure to psychiatry in Ireland and India gave me
valuable insight and understanding of cross-cultural psychiatry,” added Dr
Naughton, who, as a senior registrar, worked as a lecturer at Trinity College
Dublin as part of her training in forensic psychiatry.
“I have worked in various HSE services in General Adult
Community Psychiatry, as a consultant psychiatrist which helped greatly in
developing my approach to treatment, care, ways of working and leading a
multidisciplinary team,” she continued.
“Community psychiatry involves day hospital; inpatient and
outpatient work at various locations in the catchment area. As a consultant my
focus always has been an holistic approach to achieve recovery rather than just
remission of illness.”
With the country on the verge of electing a new Government,
the topic of health, including the provision of mental health services, has
been a major talking point of the General Election 2020 campaign.
As part of its manifesto, Mental Health Reform (MHR) said
Ireland’s mental health services were in a state of crisis and have “suffered
from years of significant underinvestment, staffing shortages and access
MHR is calling for all election candidates to pledge
substantial investment in Ireland’s mental health services, from 6 per cent of
the overall health budget to at least 10 per cent.
The national coalition of organisations campaigning to
transform mental health and well-being supports in Ireland also said that 24/7
access to crisis services across the country needs to be improved, while the
Mental Health Act 2001 required reform to give adequate protection to people’s
rights when they are in hospital for mental health treatment.
Dr Naughton also agreed that the State’s funding of mental
health services at present was insufficient. “This is accepted by all
stakeholders involved,” she said.
Access to mental health services was becoming more
difficult, she continued, because “of unending waiting lists for specialist
“This causes anguish for those seeking treatment and a
worsening of symptoms by the time they finally access our services, meaning
increasing chronicity of the illness, their treatment is prolonged, with a
poorer prognosis, and the knock-on effect for their caring families and
friends,” added Dr Naughton. This, she said, will also impact negatively on
waiting-list sizes for other service users trying to access the service because
it was taking longer to stabilise and discharge patients.
“Early intervention shortens treatment time and thus opens
up more opportunities for new patients,” she explained.
She also said the country’s politicians must address the use
of recruitment embargoes by the HSE. Staffing levels were at “crisis point”,
she said, because under-resourced services were unattractive to new entrants.
The existing pool of mental health professionals was being
“cannibalised” by the system, she said, because staff were moving “from one
sector to another to plug a hole, creating the same problem in the sector they
have just left and the net result is no improvement in staffing levels.
“Recruitment of new professionals from outside the existing
base must be a priority and making these opportunities attractive for
applicants,” she said.
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