A "crisis" in Wellington mental health services is being put down to access issues, rather than funding.

Workers from the Capital and Coast DHB have taken the unusual step of writing an open letter, appealing to the public to create pressure for change.

Top of the list of requests was extra funding for more staff and security systems.

But Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said there was no crisis, and no need for extra money.


"We have increased funding from $1.1 to $1.4 billion over time."

Dr Coleman admitted that the Government "opened up" ring fenced funding earlier in the political term, and said that was to allow more money to be spent on primary care and pharmaceuticals.

"But there is definitely ring fenced spending, mental health spending's gone up, and on top of that DHBs have the discretion to move money into mental health as they see fit.

"It's a very important area, there's increasing demand and we've got to continue to do more, but I would not describe it as a crisis."

Mental health workers disagree, laying out the reasons why in their open letter.

The letter said that workers were now struggling to do their jobs.

"Here's one example. At one of our work sites, the alarm system has a 15-second delay.

"And that can be the difference between life and death - for clients and for staff.

"We have been asking for a new system for two years. We're still waiting."

The letter finishes by accusing Dr Coleman of not listening to their concerns, and asking for improved funding.

The open letter comes in response to a highly critical report into Wellington's public mental health services.

Five patients were involved in attacks over 15 months.

The Mellsop review found major problems in each case.

It recommended a raft of changes to the system including better record keeping and faster assessments.

PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay said the mental health workers knew it was a big step to speak out publicly, but they felt they had no other choice.

"Under National more than $1.7 billion has vanished from the health budget.

"Lack of money means DHBs are struggling to replace ageing buildings and outdated alarm systems which have potentially life threatening flaws, not to mention hiring staff and improving safety.

"[Workers are] seeing a steady erosion of their ability to support and stand up for their clients."