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Health Soc Care Community. 2009 Mar;17(2):216-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2008.00825.x. Epub 2008 Nov 28.

Improving transfer of mental health care for rural and remote consumers in South Australia.

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1
Spencer Gulf Rural Health School, Centre for Rural Health and Community Development, University of SA, University of Adelaide, Nicolson Ave Whyalla Norrie, South Australia, Australia. judy.taylor@unisa.edu.au

Abstract

In Australia, it is commonplace for tertiary mental health care to be provided in large regional centres or metropolitan cities. Rural and remote consumers must be transferred long distances, and this inevitably results in difficulties with the integration of their care between primary and tertiary settings. Because of the need to address these issues, and improve the transfer process, a research project was commissioned by a national government department to be conducted in South Australia. The aim of the project was to document the experiences of mental health consumers travelling from the country to the city for acute care and to make policy recommendations to improve transitions of care. Six purposively sampled case studies were conducted collecting data through semistructured interviews with consumers, country professional and occupational groups and tertiary providers. Data were analysed to produce themes for consumers, and country and tertiary mental healthcare providers. The study found that consumers saw transfer to the city for mental health care as beneficial in spite of the challenges of being transferred over long distances, while being very unwell, and of being separated from family and friends. Country care providers noted that the disjointed nature of the mental health system caused problems with key aspects of transfer of care including transport and information flow, and achieving integration between the primary and tertiary settings. Improving transfer of care involves overcoming the systemic barriers to integration and moving to a primary care-led model of care. The distance consultation and liaison model provided by the Rural and Remote Mental Health Services, the major tertiary provider of services for country consumers, uses a primary care-led approach and was highly regarded by research participants. Extending the use of this model to other primary mental healthcare providers and tertiary facilities will improve transfer of care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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