Mental health patients are being let down by district health boards when at their most vulnerable, the Green Party says.
According to an audit report earlier this year, DHBs failed to meet targets in all but one of the 60 measures used to ascertain the consistency of care throughout the mental health system.
Every DHB outside Auckland failed to meet the 80 per cent target of providing community service contact in the seven days immediately after a patient’s discharge.
In the report, the ministry states contact in this period is essential to minimise the need for hospital readmission, and research indicates patients have increased vulnerability immediately after their discharge, including a higher risk of suicide.
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Greens health spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said mental health was “absent from national health targets”, and should be “taken seriously by the ministry, particularly given our high suicide rate”.
“The ministry is leaving the DHBs and the community sector to sort this out, but the overall level of funding and resource allocated is determined by the ministry and the government of the day.
“Many people have been calling for a nationwide inquiry into mental health so we can get to the bottom of what needs to be done, so the record number of New Zealanders who are reaching out for help can get the help they need.”
The mental health and addictions report, published in March, uses data compiled by the individual DHBs to measure against performance indicators, and in 2014-15 almost half the measures were outside the target range and considered at an “alert” level.
Alert indicators represent performance levels that should trigger investigation by the affected organisation.
“The alert levels were agreed by DHBs to encourage improvement in performance,” John Crawshaw, the ministry’s director of mental health, said.
“They’re a provider-led initiative, and as such, I encourage that sort of collaboration.
“In the context of those figures, we have maintained a focus on overall access rates, wait times for non-urgent clients, and discharge plans for mental health patients.”
Almost 165,000 people were seen by DHBs across New Zealand mental health and addiction services in the year to March, indicating improved access rates, Crawshaw said.
Capital & Coast DHB had improved its results by November, but was still in the “alert” range for post-discharge contact.
“This improvement reflects the effectiveness of our work to identify opportunities for improvement,” performance general manager Rachel Haggerty said.
“Mental health is a critically important part of health and wellbeing for the people we serve across Capital & Coast.
“Mental health monitors its performance closely to see where improvements can be made.”
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said a national inquiry in itself was not going to improve access to services.
“We are doing more – for example, Budget 2016 includes $12 million of funding over four years to increase support for people to access mental health services at an earlier stage.
“Demand for mental health services has increased from 2.3 per cent of the population a decade ago, to 3.5 per cent of the population in the last year – from around 96,000 people, up to 164,000.