Transport, movement and patient absence
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
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.
Involuntary patient absence
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
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.
Fact Sheet: Transport and patients required to return
Flowchart (Static): Returning patients from absent without approval events
Flowchart (Interactive): Absent Without Approval (AWA) Pathway (Queensland Health Staff Only)
Example Scenario: Authority to Transport Absent Person - Inpatient
Example Scenario: Authority to Transport Absent Person - Community
Example Scenario: Authority to Transport Absent Person - Emergency Department
Engaging our Interstate Partners
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.
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
16 Nov 2018
16 Nov 2018
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 MHA2016@health.qld.gov.au.