The Chief Psychiatrist

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The Chief Psychiatrist is appointed under part 7, division 2 of the MHA 2014. That office no longer has a formal role in responding to and resolving complaints from consumers, carers and others, in relation to mental health services. From 1 July 2014, this function now rests with the new MHCC (seeMental Health Complaints Commissioner”). The Chief Psychiatrist’s role from 1 July 2014 is limited to:

providing clinical leadership and expert clinical advice to MHSPs in Victoria;

promoting continuous improvement in the quality and safety of mental health services;

promoting the rights of people receiving mental health services; and

providing advice to the Minister and Secretary to the Department of Health about the provision of such mental health services;

In order to carry out their roles, the Chief Psychiatrist has a range of functions under section 121, including: developing and publishing standards, guidelines and practice directions for the provision of mental health services and assisting MHSPs to comply with these; monitoring mental health services to improve quality and safety; and analysing data and publishing information about mental health services and treatment, including in an annual report. Although it does not have a complaints function, the Chief Psychiatrist can, under section 122, conduct an investigation of a mental health service where the health, safety or wellbeing of a person is or was endangered. It can also give directions to MHSPs in some cases.

The Chief Psychiatrist has a range of powers to enable them to perform these functions, including powers to: enter MHSP premises (s 123(1)); examine or inspect anything and take copies of documents (s 123(2)); and direct that evidence be produced or questions answered (s 124). Staff at the MHSP must also provide the Chief Psychiatrist or any authorised officer acting under their direction with reasonable assistance they require (s 125).

The MHA 2014 also requires MHSPs to report certain matters to the Chief Psychiatrist including the use of restrictive interventions, performance of ECT and neurosurgery, and reportable deaths.