The body responsible for primary health care services in Canberra has called for an audit of the demand for suicide prevention services in the ACT, in the absence of reliable data on the need for such programs.
While the latest ABS statistics, from 2014, show the ACT had the lowest suicide rate of all Australian jurisdictions, at 9.2 per 100,000 deaths, the Capital Health Network has called for a study to examine the demand for suicide prevention services and gaps in the existing services.
CHN chief executive Gaylene Coulton said there was a lack of reliable and “appropriately coded” data on the existing suicide prevention services in Canberra.
She said it was especially pertinent for those people who may be at a high risk of self-harm, but “may not present at a health service”, and there was also a need to be able to include ambulance and police data on responses to such incidents.
Ms Coulton said the current ACT-held statistics also did not capture the instances of treatment or advice, such as that provided by a general practitioner, given to people who may seek help with their doctor, but not with other services.
“We’re keen to explore with ACT Health the issues around demand-driven prevention and early intervention services, and what additionals services are needed for people who have had a suicide attempt and for their families to help support them better,” she said.
The call for an audit of the demand for such services was one of several initiatives the network outlined in its 2017-18 ACT budget submission, along with recommendations to the territory government to set up an ACT-wide electronic health record system.
it was one of more than 80 submissions sent to the territory government, most calling for more funding across a range of portfolios, all of which the government will consider as part of the usual annual budget process.
Ms Coulton said the network also wanted the government to set up a new drug and alcohol outreach service for “hard to reach” Canberrans that might feel marginalised in the community, have lower health literacy or less understanding of the healthy system and how to access services already available.
In recommendations also previously urged by the ACT’s Council of Social Services, the network has also called for a study to measure and analyse “the effects of the social determinants of health on the ACT community”.
Ms Coulton said the World Health Organisation how found there were links between the social conditions – factors like transport availability, education and housing – and people’s health and it needed to be analysed in Canberra “at a whole-of-system level”.
She said an ACT electronic health record system was also needed, mainly because of a lack of real-time information-sharing between the hospital and primary care areas.
The network has recently appointed a manager to run a joint CHN-ACT Health “:transition of care pilot program” – which will examine discharge and communication processes between different levels of the health system.
Ms Coulton said that pilot, informed by consumers, general practitioners, hospital specialists and others, would also specifically look at the “transitions” as a point in the health system where things can go awry.
“It’s the issue that people may have several discharge forms say from hospital, one for medication, one from the doctor, one maybe from a social or mental health worker,” she said.
“(It’s about) how that’s coordinated so that their GP knows, their local pharmacy knows and so the GP can follow up appropriately, and the person is given enough information to manage their treatment.”
Ms Coulton said transitions could also be particularly complex for patients with multiple chronic health conditions, when they were treated in hospital for one primary condition, but their other conditions could complicate what sort of treatment they should be given.
The ACT government was unable to respond by deadline to questions for this report.
This article first appeared on ‘The Canberra Times’ on 12 January 2017.