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Some mentally ill discharged too soon: OAG

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/05/2017 Karen Sweeney

Some mentally ill people are being discharged from hospital before they're ready to make way for "more unwell" people because of a high demand for inpatient beds, a report from the Auditor-General's office has revealed.

Deputy Controller and Auditor-General Greg Schollum's scathing report found some patients were being discharged at short notice and before community support could be put in place.

"High occupancy rates in inpatient units mean some people have to be discharged on a 'least unwell' basis to create a space for a 'more unwell' person," he found.

"People are sometimes discharged on short notice, and some without the knowledge of community mental health teams or the person's family."

The review looked at more than 20,000 people who were admitted for acute mental health treatment between mid-2011 and mid-2015.

They were among 375,000 people to receive specialist mental health services during that period.

Mr Schollum's report, tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, revealed that in the last three years no DHB had met their own target to follow up with 90 per cent of patients within seven days of discharge.

On that, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said DHBs "need to lift their game" but on other aspects of the report said work was being done to address concerns.

"[Data from] that report is from 14 months ago. The Ministry of Health has been working ever since with DHBs in light of the findings that have been communicated by the OAG so there've been measures taken," he said.

"The Health Quality and Safety Commission has launched an initiative around discharge planning so it's important that the findings in the audit are addressed."

Labour leader Andrew Little said way too many people were having disastrous experiences in the area and couldn't rule out that people may have died as a result.

"We have a mental health service at the acute end that is poorly resourced, struggling to keep up and the people paying the price for that are mental health patients and their families," he said.

The service is stretched to breaking point, he said, adding that he'd made mental health a personal priority.

Mr Schollum found while some patients may voluntarily choose not to follow up with service providers, waiting lists, funding and eligibility were also barriers to stopping people from getting support after being discharged.

Difficulty finding accommodation was also a concern, he said.

Dr Coleman said he expected DHBs to provide "appropriate placement in the communities" to meet patient needs.

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