Good progress on mental health follow-up care but better support for patients and carers needed

Jan Barham, NSW Greens MP and spokesperson on Mental Health welcomed today’s Auditor-General’s report on mental health post-discharge care, which found that follow-up care has generally improved across NSW.

“Follow-up care for people admitted to hospital because of a mental health episode such as attempted suicide is critical to ensuring patients’ health and wellbeing once they are discharged”, said Ms Barham.

“I’m pleased that NSW Local Health Districts have improved their rates of post-discharge follow-up and that reporting requirements for LHDs appear to be improving continuity of care for patients.”

Three of the Local Health Districts audited had reached the 70% benchmark for provision of follow-up care within seven days of discharge. Of the remaining two, one had recorded an improvement, but still fell below the benchmark (Sydney, 58%), while Northern NSW had recorded a decline over the past five years, with 60% of patients receiving follow-up care.

“It’s important that Local Health Districts not meeting the benchmark work to ensure patients receive follow-up care. The NSW Government should look at whether these districts need further resourcing to improve care of people once they return to the community.”

The report was critical of health services’ interaction with care recipients who were often not provided with discharge summaries, and many carers and families were not advised of discharges.

“Care recipients must be at the centre of the follow-up care process if we are going to have client-led recovery. Their carers and families must be included every step of the way so that they can support them once they return to their communities.”

“This is particularly important for patients who return to communities outside the Local Health District. Follow-up rates for these patients are as low as 13%. Involvement of families and carers could help address this issue but there also needs to be better coordination between health districts to ensure that continuity of care is achieved.”

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Auditor-General’s report on mental health post-discharge care