A new report
released by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) suggests emergency departments are failing to adequately fulfil their role as a timely and accessible entry point to the mental health system.
Based upon mental health presentation data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) National Non-admitted Patient Emergency Department Care Database (NNAPEDCD) 2016/17, The Long Wait: An Analysis of Mental Health Presentations to Australian Emergency Departments
highlights a number of concerning areas regarding emergency department (ED) mental health provision.
Each year 250,000+ Australians seek help at EDs for acute mental and behavioural conditions at a time of acute crisis.
The data suggests those seeking treatment for mental health issues were:
- waiting longer than other patients with a similar severity of physical illness before their assessment and commencement of treatment
- enduring a longer period of treatment in ED
- twice as likely as other ED presentations to leave before their treatment and care was complete
- more commonly rated by ED staff as requiring urgent care on the Australasian Triage Scale (ATS)
- more likely to identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples than other patients
- 18 per cent less likely to be seen within the appropriate ATS timeframe for their presentation urgency.
90 per cent of all people presenting to ED left within seven hours, yet those presenting with acute mental health crises left within 11.5 hours.
The report suggests this is evidence of constraints on the admission capacity of hospitals and a lack of specialist mental health staff.
Notably, for 10 per cent of presentations, their ED length of stay – or waiting time – far exceeded 16.5 hours.
Almost three per cent of patients were deemed to have left EDs at their own risk, prior to completing their ED care.
was released ahead of the first Mental Health in the Emergency Department Summit
, which takes place on Tuesday 16 October.