National mental health policy 2008

2.9 Quality and outcomes

Page last updated: 2009

Across all sectors, services provided to people with mental health problems and mental illness should be monitored and evaluated to ensure that they are of high quality and achieving positive outcomes.
People with mental health problems and mental illness should receive high quality mental health and social services. Clearly-articulated quality frameworks that ensure that the appropriate information is available and that this information is used to guide decision-making about service development and delivery should be in place across all sectors. These quality frameworks should set out comprehensive processes for gathering and feeding back information to continuously improve service performance, including articulating lines of responsibility and accountability.

Mental health and other services should be geared to achieving positive outcomes for individuals and their families. These outcomes might be defined in different ways, and could include reductions in symptomatology and improvements in quality of life, as well as positive perceptions of care. In order to achieve these outcomes, services will need to meet agreed standards, and ensure that their staff have the knowledge and skills to deliver evidence-based best practice. In addition, they should consult people with mental health problems and mental illness and their carers as to what constitutes a high quality service and promotes recovery.

Continued efforts to improve the monitoring of service quality must be encouraged. The importance of listening and responding to the consumer and carer experience to inform service development should be recognised. Quality assurance programs, benchmarking activities and independent accreditation initiatives should be fostered, both locally and nationally to improve accountability. Professional bodies and individual providers should have a role in developing and implementing these efforts, as should people with mental health problems and mental illness and their carers.

In the mental health sector, explicit measures should be developed to assess service quality and track progress against desired outcomes. The development and implementation of National Standards for Services, and National Practice Standards for the workforce support quality improvement, and should apply across all mental health services. In other sectors, too, the extent to which quality services are being provided to people with mental health problems and mental illness should be examined critically. Higher level outcomes should also be assessed, both as they relate to the delivery of high quality services, as well as to the aim of achieving outcomes such as employment and general health equity.

Supplementary outcome measures need to be developed and implemented to capture issues for particular groups, such as the broader view of social and emotional well-being held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Additional indicators of quality may also need to be developed to reflect specific issues such as the cultural respectfulness of services.