Letters were sent to Chief Executive Officers (CEO's) of all private psychiatric hospitals seeking information regarding current policies and practice regarding identification of carers. Responses were received from a small number of hospitals.
Admissions to the private hospital sector are primarily voluntary. As a result, State and Territory Mental Health Legislation has little impact in this sector. There has also been a reluctance within this sector to undertake accreditation processes against the National Standards for Mental Health Services. Private hospitals are also not under an obligation to meet State policies regarding carer participation.
However it is pleasing to note, as recommended in the Identifying the Carer Report 2007, that a number of private hospitals have included as part of their formal admission process, a form based on the one developed by the Ramsay Health Care New Farm Clinic. This form is colour coded and audited on a regular basis. It invites consumers to identify people they would like to have involved in their care, and to nominate the level of involvement they endorse. Some hospitals then seek separate consumer permission to contact family members/carers to invite them to participate in Support and Education Programs.
One hospital also informed us that as part of their admission procedure consumers are asked about their living arrangements, the existence of carers, as well as the health and willingness of the carer to assist the consumer post discharge. These questions are documented in the admission assessment format.
In some hospitals, carers have access to resources located in patient's lounges and brochure stands with some information provided in a number of languages other than English. These brochures have primarily been developed on an individual basis by hospitals and rely heavily on information supplied by the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre. A specific Carers Lounge is offered in one private hospital. This area allows carers a space for some time out and offers privacy for attending to any phone calls that need to be made.
Identification of carers in the private hospital sector appears to hinge almost exclusively on consumer consent. Little assistance is provided to encourage carers to self identify.
Consumer/carer participation has been slow to develop in the private hospital sector. The recommendations and materials produced during the course of this project may provide examples to encourage and increase the identification and engagement of carers And reinforce the role that carers have in consumer recovery in both the public and private sectors.