Victorian Ombudsman calls for better reporting in psychiatric facilities

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Poor record keeping, particularly the absence of incident reports, has prevented the Victorian Ombudsman from reaching conclusions about allegations of the use of excessive force on patients at an adult acute psychiatric facility.

The Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has called for better reporting practices in her report, Investigation following concerns raised by Community Visitors about a mental health facility, tabled in the Victorian Parliament today.

The report is the result of an own motion investigation initiated by the Ombudsman following the 2012-2013 annual report of the Community Visitors, which detailed a number of concerns about the care of patients at a Victorian adult acute psychiatric facility.

“Good record keeping practices foster a culture of transparency and accountability that needs to be in place to ensure people deprived of their liberty are protected when they cannot protect themselves.” Ms Glass said.

“It is a means by which the public can be assured that allegations of mistreatment have been taken seriously and investigated thoroughly," she said.

"The paucity of records kept by the facility means I cannot provide the public with that assurance in this instance, which I acknowledge can be frustrating for patients, staff subject to allegations, and Community Visitors.”

The investigation identified that refusal to or delays in providing Community Visitors access to incident reports, where they existed, were not limited to this facility and are a continuing problem.

The Ombudsman has recommended the Secretary of the Department of Health give directions to clarify and resolve this issue.

The Ombudsman has also recommended that all mental health facilities conduct regular random audits of treatment plans for involuntary patients, as the investigation found that despite the facility being required to prepare these plans, they were not being provided in all cases.

The Department of Health supports this recommendation, and the facility has agreed to it, taking a number of steps to resolve the issues identified by the investigation.

Ms Glass said their largely cooperative and constructive approach had allowed the issues in the report specific to this facility to be resolved, but the broader concerns raised should also be considered by other agencies in the mental health sector.

Report: Investigation following concerns raised by Community Visitors about a mental health facility ,

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