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Transport, movement and patient absence

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  • Transport is a key part of healthcare, enabling access to assessment and treatment for people experiencing mental health problems.

    The Act makes provision to transfer an involuntary patient and a classified patient (voluntary) from one authorised mental health service to another or to and from the Forensic Disability Service.

    Policy: Transfers and transport

    Fact Sheet: Transfer of responsibility for patients

    Fact Sheet: Interstate mental health patients in Queensland

    Form: Patient Transfer

    The Queensland Interagency Agreement for Safe Transport of People Accessing Mental Health Assessment, Treatment and Care 2019 supports interagency collaboration between Hospital and Health Services, Queensland Ambulance Service and the Queensland Police Service, in ensuring the safe transport of people with a mental illness across Queensland. Whilst this document is not legally binding, the agreement acts as a broad guide for interagency management of mental health patient transport.

    Transport Agreement: Queensland Interagency Agreement for Safe Transport of People Accessing Mental Health Assessment, Treatment and Care 2019

  • Approved temporary absence

    The Chief Psychiatrist may approve particular patients who are detained in an inpatient unit of an authorised mental health service to be temporarily absent in the following circumstances:

    • enable access to health care
    • to attend a court or judicial hearing
    • to seek accommodation as part of discharge planning, or
    • for compassionate grounds.

    Policy: Temporary absence

    Form: Chief Psychiatrist Approval - Temporary Absence and Limited Community Treatment

    Absence without approval

    Arrangements may be made under the Act for a patient who is absent without approval to be returned to an authorised mental health service or a public-sector health service facility. Unless risks in doing so are identified, reasonable efforts must be made to contact and encourage the patient to attend or return to an authorised mental health service or public-sector health service facility voluntarily.

    If the patient is not willing or able to return to the service voluntarily, an Authority to Transport Absent Person (ATAP) may be issued. An ATAP authorises the patient to be returned by a health practitioner, ambulance officer or, if necessary to ensure the safe transportation and return of the patient, a police officer.

    Policy: Managing involuntary patient absences

    Fact Sheet: Transport and patients required to return

    Flowchart (Static): Returning patients from absent without approval events

    Flowchart (Interactive): Absent Without Approval (AWA) Pathway

    Form: Request for Police Assistance

    Form: Authority to Transport Absent Person

    Form: Revocation of Authority to Transport Absent Person

  • The development of cross-border arrangements for people under involuntary mental health orders continues to be a focus of national mental health planning. The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan requires governments to improve consistency across jurisdictions in mental health legislation with a view to ensuring seamless and safe care for consumers, in particular those who move between jurisdictions.

    Agreements provide a clear framework by which a person may be relocated interstate within the complexities of the legislative provisions of each state. Apprehension of patients from interstate occurs infrequently however the impacts for patients can be significant. It is therefore important to have Agreements in place to ensure quality and safe treatment and care for mental health patients, including timely actions in responding to crisis situations.

    Interstate Agreements

    New South Wales

    The Queensland Health Office of the Chief Psychiatrist worked with NSW colleagues to draft a Memorandum of Agreement on Interstate Application of Mental Health Laws. The Agreement was prescribed by regulation by the NSW Parliament on 16 November 2018. The combined civil and forensic Agreement provides for:

    • Reciprocal arrangements between the states for cross border examination and assessment of mental health patients
    • Planned interstate transfers of civil involuntary patients
    • Apprehension and return of certain interstate persons who are absent without approval from Queensland or NSW.
    Current agreement and resources

    Agreement on Interstate Application of Mental Health Laws - NSW

    16 Nov 2018

    Civil Interstate Transfer Notice Form

    16 Nov 2018

    Interstate Apprehension Order - Request to Apprehend

    16 Nov 2018

    Additional resources to support the Agreement are being developed in consultation with our interstate partners, including a guideline and checklists to support services operationalising the Agreement.

    Jurisdictions pending agreements

    The Queensland Health Office of the Chief Psychiatrist continues consultation with other jurisdictions including Victoria to develop new Agreements.

    In the absence of an Interstate Agreement, there are other mechanisms available to facilitate transfer, apprehension and return of involuntary patients.

    Transfers: The Chief Psychiatrist works with Queensland Mental Health Services and interstate service providers to facilitate movement and transfers as required.

    Apprehension and return of patients absent without approval: For information or support progressing the apprehension and return of a patient to or from another state, contact the Mental Health Act Liaison Service.

    Examination and assessment: Emergency powers exist for each jurisdiction that authorise assessment and treatment for a person from another jurisdiction to ensure the person’s needs are being met.

    For more information and support, you can email

Last updated: 22 April 2020