The Chief Psychiatrist is appointed under the MHA 2014 (pt 7 div 2). The Chief Psychiatrist no longer has a formal role in responding to and resolving complaints from consumers, carers and others, in relation to mental health services. Since 1 July 2014, the Victorian Mental Health Complaints Commissioner has performed this function (see “Victorian Mental Health Complaints Commissioner”). Since 1 July 2014, the Chief Psychiatrist’s role has been 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 DHHS about the provision of such mental health services.
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 on mental health wards, performance of ECT and neurosurgery, and reportable deaths.