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More help for mental health patients

The dawn of a new era in mental health care in Queensland starts today, including the introduction of Independent Patient Rights Advisers (IPRAs).

The new Mental Health Act 2016 takes effect from today [March 5] and includes a raft of new measures that respect and enhance the rights of mental health consumers and their families.

Associate Professor John Allan, Executive Director of the Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch, Queensland Health, said the introduction of IPRAs would enable patients to gain a better understanding of their rights and care.

“This is an important initiative that puts the patient at the centre of what we do and also aids in the care and recovery of patients,” Associate Professor Allan said.

Associate Professor Allan said around 24 new advisers had been employed across the state, with their primary role being to ensure patients, their support persons, family and carers, understood their rights.

“Particularly with the changes to the Act that come into effect today, it’s more important than ever for everyone involved in a patient’s care to understand the patient’s rights, for patients to be able to communicate their wishes and preferences and have greater control over their care.”

“Mental health legislation is complex and during consultation on the new legislation it became clear that patients found it difficult to navigate the system, so these new advisers will play an important role in supporting the patient,” Professor Allan said.

Amanda Jackson is one of four Independent Patient Rights Advisers for Gold Coast Health.

“I’m really excited about this new role. I am passionate about patient rights and believe consumers and the people supporting their recovery will benefit greatly from this service,” she said.

An IPRA also gives patients or a support person an independent second opinion if there are concerns about a patient’s treatment and care.

“This gives patients a greater say and more confidence in the care they are receiving,” Associate Professor Allan said.

In addition to the adviser positions the new Mental Health Act 2016 also requires that wherever possible; a patient be treated under an advance health directive or with the consent of a personal attorney or guardian, instead of under a treatment authority.

“This will mean patients have given consent to the healthcare they want to receive during a time when they might lack the capacity to make such decisions,” Associate Professor Allan said.

“Research indicates that patients, particularly those with a mental health illness, recover better when they have more control over their healthcare.

“We also know that patients do better when they can receive treatment in the community and the Act helps ensure this happens wherever possible.”

Associate Professor Allan also said the new Act provided a stronger role for families, carers and support persons in helping their loved one recover.

A range of resources for consumers, their families, carers, and other support persons is available from Mental Health Act 2016.

Media contact: +61 7 3234 1439

Last updated: 5 March 2017