Urgent Update: The Mental Health Infection Control Directions have been revoked – how does it affect the Mental Health Act 2014?

The Chief Health Officer revoked the Mental Health Infection Control Directions on 29th August 2022 (find revocation document here).

The Mental Health Infection Control Directions altered the way that assessments (section 48) and examinations (section 79) under the Mental Health Act 2014 were to be carried out when either the patient, or the clinician had COVID-19, had been in contact with COVID-19, had symptoms of COVID-19 or had been directed to isolate.  In those circumstances, the assessment or examination had to be carried out using one or more of the following infection control measures: use of PPE, use of a physical barrier, physical distancing, or audiovisual equipment.

Therefore, when the Mental Health Infection Control Directions were in place, there were times when it was possible to use audiovisual means to carry out assessments or examinations, in the metro area, when the COVID-19 criteria were met.

Now that the Mental Health Infection Control Directions have been revoked, this is no longer the case.

Assessments (section 48) and examinations (section 79) under the Mental Health Act 2014 can therefore no longer be carried out using telehealth or other audiovisual means, in the metro area.

The arrangements outside the metro area are not affected.

The COVID-19 FAQs will be updated to reflect this change.

COVID-19 FAQs for mental health services – Version 3

In February 2022, the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist developed a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document to assist mental health services to appropriately discharge their duty of care to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. These FAQs are intended to assist with clinical translation of the various COVID-19 related statutory requirements and local policies relevant to mental health care.

The document has been updated in light of the implementation of the Blue alert level of the WA Health COVID-19 Framework for System Alert and Response (SAR).

OCP COVID-19 FAQs for mental health services
(Version 3, published 24/08/22)

The FAQs and other directives, guides and information are available online at the Chief Psychiatrist’s COVID-19 Information Hub.

New resources to support Western Australians in advanced care planning

A suite of resources to help Western Australians have more say about their health and personal care have been launched by the Minister for Health, Hon Amber-Jade Sanderson (read the Minister’s full Media Statement here).

Spearheaded by a new user-friendly Advance Health Directive (AHD), the resources include advance care planning guides for consumers and health professionals, online content and a guide to support people to complete their AHD. There are also several advance care planning documents that enable Western Australians to record and share their preferences and decisions. These include an Advance Health Directive, a Values and Preferences Form and Enduring Powers of Guardianship.

The new Advance Health Directive and supporting resources can be accessed on the Department of Health website.

The Chief Psychiatrist’s Standard –  Consumer and Carer Involvement in Individual Care, should be central in decision making.  The Chief Psychiatrist encourages all mental health clinicians to be aware of the new resources and the role of Advanced Health Directives in mental health settings.

Chief Psychiatrist’s Mental Health Community of Practice – Coping with staff shortages in community MHS

The next Community of Practice session is coming up on Thursday 21 April, with the topic Coping with staff shortages in community mental health services. This session is for clinicians working in mental health services, to attend, please RSVP to clinicalreviews@ocp.wa.gov.au.

The purpose of the session is to share learning, ideas and practice-based evidence in adapting to changing demands in a rising COVID-19 environment. Responding through collaboration and sharing-up-to date state, national and local guidelines and strategies will support sustaining high quality mental health care through community transmission.

The details for the second session are:

Coping with staff shortages in community mental health services
Armadale Community Mental Health Service will be sharing what has been working for them
Thursday 21 April 1:00 – 1:30

The format will be an informal 30 minute online sharing and discussion session.  A summary will be made available on the Chief Psychiatrist’s website following the session.  For more information, please see our Community of Practice page.

The session will be held on MS Teams. If you would like to attend, please email clinicalreviews@ocp.wa.gov.au, and a meeting invite will be forwarded to you.

Chief Psychiatrist’s Mental Health Community of Practice – Inpatient Care in COVID-19

The Office of the Chief Psychiatrist is starting new online forums to support best practice and problem-solving between mental health services in a rising COVID-19 environment.

The sessions are open to all staff from clinical mental health services and will provide an opportunity to collaborate, learn and support each other through challenges working in COVID-19 community transmission. A similar model has been successful in New South Wales.

The purpose of the sessions is to share learning, ideas and practice-based evidence in adapting to changing demands in a rising COVID-19 environment. Responding through collaboration and sharing-up-to date state, national and local guidelines and strategies will support sustaining high quality mental health care through community transmission.

The first session will be next week:

Inpatient Care in COVID-19
Mimidi Park will be sharing their experience so far
Wednesday 23 March 11:00 – 11:30

The format will be an informal 30 minute online sharing and discussion session.  A summary will be made available on the Chief Psychiatrist’s website (Community of Practice) following the session.

The session will be held on MS Teams. If you would like to attend, please email clinicalreviews@ocp.wa.gov.au, and a link to attend will be forwarded to you.

COVID-19 FAQs for mental health services

The Office of the Chief Psychiatrist has developed a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document to assist mental health services to appropriately discharge their duty of care to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. These FAQs are intended to assist with clinical translation of the various COVID-19 related statutory requirements and local policies relevant to mental health care.

OCP COVID-19 FAQs for mental health services
(Version 2, published 14/03/22)

Also please note that the Mental Health Infection Control Guidelines have been updated to version 4 (effective 04/03/22) and are now available.

The FAQs, Mental Health Infection Control Guidelines and other directives, guides and information are available online at the Chief Psychiatrist’s COVID-19 Information Hub.

Chief Psychiatrist’s Good Practice Guide: Providing mental health care when there is community transmission of COVID-19

The Chief Psychiatrist has published this guide in March 2022 to support clinicians to continue providing high standards of care during COVID-19 community transmission.

Its aim is to support consumers and carers to stay safe, plan for isolation, get tested and to plan for and communicate their mental health and support needs to treating teams.

This  guide is not mandatory under the Mental Health Act 2014 and is not part of the Chief Psychiatrist’s Guidelines.  It is intended to complement existing policy, and to assist clinicians and consumers in care planning and to access state and national information about how to manage in COVID-19.

Communication between carers, consumers and mental health teams is key to supporting high standards of timely, person-centred medical and mental health care.  This may be a stressful time for consumers, their families and supports, and increased mental health support and assistance with navigating the COVID-19 testing and treatment may be required.

This initial Guide has been updated following feedback from staff, and the most recent version can be found here:

Chief Psychiatrist’s Good Practice Guide: Providing mental health care when there is community transmission of COVID-19 

Feedback from staff is welcomed to: reception@ocp.wa.gov.au and will be used to further adapt the Guide.

Chief Psychiatrist’s COVID-19 Information Hub (updated 13/09/22)

Featured

As Chief Psychiatrist, I remain acutely aware of the incredible work being done across mental health services to provide safe services for consumers during the COVID pandemic.

Services have all developed their COVID-safe plans, but the experience in other jurisdictions highlights the pressure on healthcare systems that emerges when COVID-19 proliferates in the community.

The Chief Psychiatrist thanks all staff – clinical, non-clinical and service leaders, who will be called upon to extend themselves as COVID-19 inevitably places increasing pressure on our mental health services over the coming months.

The staff of the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist are committed to advising and supporting clinicians and services throughout this time.


Office of the Chief Psychiatrist Activities and COVID-19 Response

OCP activities during COVID-19

OCP COVID-19 FAQs for mental health services (Version 3, published 24/08/22)

Chief Psychiatrist’s Good Practice Guide: Providing mental health care when there is community transmission of COVID-19 (updated 01/06/22)

Chief Psychiatrist’s Mental Health Community of Practice

Chief Psychiatrist’s Audio-Visual Communication Guideline

Authorisation of mental health units under the Mental Health Act 2014 during the COVID-19 pandemic

Approved Electroconvulsive (ECT) Therapy Services and ECT Service Approval during the COVID-19 pandemic


COVID-19 Mental Health Directives and Guides

COVID-19 Mental Health Infection Control Directions

The Chief Health Officer revoked the Mental Health Infection Control Directions on 29th August 2022 (find revocation document here).

The Mental Health Infection Control Directions altered the way that assessments (section 48) and examinations (section 79) under the Mental Health Act 2014 were to be carried out when either the patient, or the clinician had COVID-19, had been in contact with COVID-19, had symptoms of COVID-19 or had been directed to isolate.  In those circumstances, the assessment or examination had to be carried out using one or more of the following infection control measures: use of PPE, use of a physical barrier, physical distancing, or audiovisual equipment.

Therefore, when the Mental Health Infection Control Directions were in place, there were times when it was possible to use audiovisual means to carry out assessments or examinations, in the metro area, when the COVID-19 criteria were met.

Now that the Mental Health Infection Control Directions have been revoked, this is no longer the case.

Assessments (section 48) and examinations (section 79) under the Mental Health Act 2014 can therefore no longer be carried out using telehealth or other audiovisual means, in the metro area.

The arrangements outside the metro area are not affected.

The COVID-19 FAQs will be updated to reflect this change.


Clozapine monitoring during COVID-19

The Western Australian Therapeutic Advisory Group and Western Australian Psychotropic Drugs Committee have provided the following advice on Clozapine Monitoring during COVID-19, available at this link:

WATAG and PDC – Advice on Clozapine monitoring during COVID-19 (PDF) (WA Health)


Management of acute behavioural disturbance in COVID-19

This guideline addresses the safe care and management of consumers presenting with psychological distress and acute behavioural disturbance who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and asymptomatic people who fulfil the criteria for mandatory self-isolation.

Guideline: Management of acute behavioural disturbance in COVID-19 (version 3.1 published 02/05/22, WA Department of Health)


Telehealth guide for practitioners 

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has released a Telehealth Guide for Practitioners which outlines their expectations of how registered health practitioners will use telehealth in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professional Practice Guideline: Telehealth in psychiatry (published November 2021, RANZCP)

AHPRA’s Telehealth Guide for Practitioners (published April 2020, AHPRA)


Resources on this website are the most recent currently available and updates will be added as available.

For further information, please consult the WA Department of Health website, or call the COVID-19 Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

If you are a consumer or carer looking for information on mental health and COVID-19, please go to the ‘Think Mental Health‘ website. If you have a query about receiving treatment during the pandemic, please contact your care provider.

Dr Nathan Gibson
Chief Psychiatrist

Review of the Mental Health Act 2014

The Mental Health Commission is reviewing the Mental Health Act 2014 and wants to hear from people who:

  • Have received treatment under the Act;
  • Have supported someone who received treatment under the Act;
  • Work in the mental health sector, including as an advocate or volunteer;
  • Have feedback about the operation and effectiveness of the Act.

Let them know what is working well with the Act or where things could be improved.  This is your chance to have your say and help improve the Act for the Western Australian community.

Visit www.mhc.wa.gov.au/mhactreview or telephone (08) 6553 0600 for more information.

Feedback can be provided up to 31 January 2022.

Mental health services can make use of this poster to advertise a feedback session within their service.

2021 Private Psychiatric Hostels Snapshot Now Available

The Chief Psychiatrist has reviewed the data collected for the 2021 Private Psychiatric Hostels Snapshot and a report is now available.

Chief Psychiatrist’s Private Psychiatric Hostels Snapshot 2021

The Chief Psychiatrist’s Private Psychiatric Hostel Snapshot is a process to understand the demographics of residents and how they access mental health services. It is published annually as part of the oversight process for private psychiatric hostels. You can view the snapshot, along with previous versions on the Monitoring of Private Psychiatric Hostels page.