Agreement on safety and quality in forensic care
On Friday, 13 July, Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker and representatives of the Dutch Mental Healthcare Association (GGZ NL), the Dutch Association for Care and Support for People with a Handicap (VGN) and the federation for shelter, reception and accommodation (Federatie Opvang, FO) concluded a long-term agreement on forensic care. This agreement includes arrangements on decreasing work pressure and increasing safety. A total of € 28.5 million in extra funds has been made available.
Research into the quality of and safety in forensic care, as well as multiple inspection reports after serious incidents, have shown that safety in forensic care is under severe pressure. Reasons include a lack of capacity and too much of an administrative burden. GGZ NL recently called for attention to these issues as well. The pressure experienced by the sector has increased the risks related to safety. As a result, the parties involved have adopted a committed and strong approach to assuming joint responsibility for the design of targeted measures. These measures are related to limiting the administrative burden, hiring more staff, retaining current employees and launching a recruitment campaign that pays attention to improving the image of forensic care. The measures are intended to return quality and safety to adequate levels.
Forensic care plays an important role in society. In addition to treating patients, the sector is involved in resocialisation, which decreases the chances of recidivism. In this manner, forensic care plays an important role in the safety of society. However, due to the increased demand, the pressure on staff and financial means is high. To this end, the Forensic Psychiatric Units (FPA) and the Forensic Psychiatric Clinics (FPK) will receive additional funding in the next three years. This provision will allow FPAs and FPKs to train staff and recruit new personnel. It will also allow investment in the quality of care as well as the safety of patients and staff.
Labour market campaign
There is a lack of highly qualified specialist staff, which is are difficult to find in the labour market. With a targeted labour market approach, the parties wish to recruit qualified staff and to encourage new staff applying, including those from other professions. The deployment of 'hands-on' experts and volunteers will also be encouraged. In addition, the Ministry of Justice and Security will launch a targeted campaign to attract staff, in consultation with the sector. This campaign will include attention to improving the general image of forensic care. Care providers will also create more work placement positions, while institutions will fund a professorship for specialist degree programmes at a university of applied sciences.
Decreasing the administrative burden
In addition to recruiting additional personnel, the administrative burden also needs to be decreased in order to free up more time for direct patient care. 'Scrapping sessions' will be organised to do away with excessive pressures. These pressures could concern legislation, internal agreements, the functioning of IT systems, consultative structures, recording of information in treatment files and sharing of information with partners. The aim is to reduce the administrative burden by 25% in 2020.
Minister Dekker expressed satisfaction with the agreement:
'Forensic care providers are an important aspect in limiting recidivism. As a result, it is crucial to the security of society that the quality in this sector is guaranteed. These targeted measures will allow staff to do their work better and more safely.'
GGZ NL administrator Joep Verbugt considers the agreement to be an important step.
'The positive thing is that we concluded an agreement and that the sector will receive a much-needed impulse. This first step is important to restore safety in the sector. In the years ahead, we will address this matter together with the Ministry.'
After the summer, the sector will resume work on improving the connection between forensic care and regular care, the social domain and the successful re-entry into society of forensic patients and former forensic patients, all consequential to existing initiatives.