More needs to be done in the community to avoid the types of crises that precipitate a visit to the ED, and more appropriate, timely treatment options are needed to minimise the time that people with mental health presentations spend in the ED.
Each year, more than a quarter of a million Australians present to EDs seeking help for acute mental and behavioural conditions. The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM), the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand, has been outspoken in calling for improvements to the way people with mental health presentations are managed in EDs across the country through investments in new care models, therapeutic treatment spaces and access to inpatient beds when needed.
ACEM called for mandatory Ministerial reporting of long ED stays in February 2018, and then held a Mental Health in the Emergency Department Summit in Melbourne late last year that saw more than 170 emergency doctors, psychiatrists, consumers, clinicians and key decision makers discuss and agree on seven key principles to tackle Australia’s mental health crisis.
ACEM issued a communiqué after the summit, vowing to set the agenda for policy reform and declaring that “no one should stay longer than 24 hours in an emergency department”, particularly those experiencing mental health crisis.
Following the Summit, the Western Australian Government said earlier this month that it will introduce and support mandatory reporting of extreme wait times in emergency departments. The Northern Territory government also recently announced a similar step towards improving patient care.
ACEM is now working with colleagues within the health system to develop a Consensus Statement that captures further commitments and provides the mandate for systemic actions by governments, services and health professionals across Australia.
ACEM President Dr Simon Judkins said: “Action is urgently required to improve the care of people suffering mental health crisis across Australia, including within emergency departments, and ACEM will continue to lead this work to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
ACEM is the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand, responsible for training emergency physicians and advancement of professional standards. www.acem.org.au
ACEM Public Affairs Manager
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