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Rise in mental health complaints not unexpected

5 Feb 2014

The level of complaints about mental health services in Queensland is low and may reflect ongoing reluctance to complain about mental health issues, according to Queensland’s Mental Health Commissioner.

Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck welcomed the analysis of mental health complaints by the Health Quality and Complaints Commission in its recently released report, Spotlight report on complaints about mental health services in Queensland 2009-12.

The report analysed 681 mental health complaints which accounted for 4% of all healthcare complaints rising slightly from 3% in 2009 to 5% in 2012.

Dr van Schoubroeck said the report highlighted a number of key issues.

“The increase in complaints about mental health services is not unexpected and reflects a number of trends.

“The use of both more varied treatment options and allied health professionals in more holistically managing mental health issues, as well as technology making it easier to lodge complaints, naturally increases the propensity for complaints.

“The flip side is that complaints relating to mental health services are still relatively low so I am concerned some people not making complaints due to stigma associated with mental illness and fear of retribution,” she said.

Dr van Schoubroeck said the case studies in the Spotlight report clearly showed areas for improvement, particularly around communication between health staff, consumers and their families and carers.

“I believe there is an avenue for consumers, families and carers to play a role in the co-design of systems, and for enhanced education and training of health staff to improve understandings and manage expectations.”

Dr van Schoubroeck said the Spotlight report would help to drive improvement and reform across the mental health system.

“I have already met with Queensland’s incoming Health Ombudsman, Leon Atkinson-MacEwen to discuss the report and we have agreed to work closely to address issues relating to mental health complaints when he officially starts in the role on 1 July,” Dr van Schoubroeck said.