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Rosa and Sophia - Carers and public mental health services

Complaint story about carers in a Victorian public mental health service.

Please note: this complaint story is about engagement with families and carers.

What Rosa told us

Rosa, the mother of Sophia, contacted the MHCC with concerns about her daughter’s recent discharge from an acute inpatient unit. Rosa said that Sophia was discharged without proper communication with Rosa as her mother and carer and with insufficient planning or support. Shortly afterwards Sophia had to be readmitted as an inpatient for further treatment.

Rosa’s rights

Victoria’s Mental Health Act 2014 and its principles protect the rights of people who are receiving mental health treatment from a public mental health service, as well as those of carers.  The principles relevant to Rosa’s situation are as follows:

k) Carers (including children) for people receiving mental health services should be involved in decisions about assessment, treatment and recovery, whenever this is possible.

l) Carers (including children) for people receiving mental health services should have their role recognised, respected and supported.

What we did

At the time Rosa contacted us, Sophia was very unwell.  Based on the information we received, we decided that there were special circumstances for us to accept Rosa’s complaint without Sophia’s consent and that doing so would not be detrimental to her wellbeing.

We asked Sophia’s service manager to meet with Rosa to discuss her concerns. Rosa said afterwards that she appreciated the genuine efforts of service staff to resolve her complaint but that discharge planning processes at the service still needed to improve.

We assessed the service’s response and made a formal recommendation that the service review their discharge planning processes.

Sophia was discharged from the hospital and moved back to live with her mother. We asked Rosa if Sophia would now be able to participate in the complaint, and Rosa said she was comfortable with us discussing it with her. Sophia agreed to the complaint proceeding and provided her views on how things could improve.

Outcomes

In response to our recommendation, the service agreed to review their discharge processes. This included reviewing their clinical practice guidelines with input from carers and consumers and piloting a new discharge procedure with the support of peer workers.

As a result of this complaint and other complaints made to our office raising similar concerns, we identified that there were systemic issues around discharge in mental health services and advised the Chief Psychiatrist there was a need for improved guidance.

Please note: names and some details in this complaint story have been omitted to protect the identity of those involved.

Reviewed 21 April 2021

Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC)

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