More than 600 complaints were made about mental health services in Queensland between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2012.

More than 600 complaints were made about mental health services in Queensland between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2012. Photo: File photo

A girl taken to a regional Queensland hospital after telling her father she wanted to commit suicide later tried to kill herself after hospital staff told the pair to find another hospital.

In this case - outlined in the January 2014 Health Quality and Complaints Commission report released on Wednesday - no mental health staff were at the hospital when the pair arrived.

‘‘After waiting a number of hours, hospital staff told the father to take his daughter home and present to another hospital the following day,’’ the report says.

‘‘The father says his daughter was discharged without an assessment by mental health staff.

‘‘She subsequently attempted suicide and had to be hospitalised.’’

The Health Quality and Complaints Commission on Wednesday released its study into 681 complaints about mental health in Queensland between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2012.

The HQCC is an independent medical watchdog.

In a second case study referred to the HQCC, a woman suffering a bipolar disorder and hearing voices was released prematurely from a psychiatric hospital and lost her job.

‘‘The woman was admitted to a hospital under an involuntary treatment order (IPO) for a bipolar condition,’’ the report makes clear.

‘‘The woman was reviewed by the consultant psychiatrist at the hospital and discharged the next day.

‘‘They said because of their daughter’s premature release from hospital without stabilisation of her mental illness, she eventually had to resign from her work.’’

These two case studies emphasise the concerns raised by parents, families in general and carers about 681 complaints about mental health care in Queensland between 2009-2012.

Mental health complaints made up 4.2 per cent of the total number of medical complaints to the Health Quality and Complaints Commission.

That has increased from a 3 per cent proportion of all complaints in 2009. 

Most of the complaints came from the person with the mental illness (70 per cent), or from parents, family members or spouses (27 per cent).

Just 3 per cent came from legal representatives, police or another source.

The HQCC rated 62 (10 per cent) of the complaints as ‘‘major’’ or ‘‘serious’’, and reported that in 44 cases (6 per cent), patients tried to commit suicide during or after the complaint. Most of the mental health complaints were about the ‘‘appropriateness of the treatment (41 per cent), while 21 per cent were about poor communication, 11 per cent were about problems with medication, 9 per cent about professional conduct.

There were three allegations of sexual misconduct in the 57 accusations of professional misconduct.

Just over half of complaints (58 per cent) were about mental health services provided in the public sector (mostly in Brisbane) and 40 per cent were about private sector services.

Queensland’s Mental Health Commissioner Lesley van Schoubreck said she believed the comparatively low proportion of complaints showed people were reluctant to report them.

‘‘I am concerned some people are not making complaints due to stigma associated with mental illness and fear of retribution,” she said.

The issues would be raised with Queensland’s new Health Ombudsman, Leon Atkinson-MacEwen.

“I have already met with him to discuss the report,’’ Dr van Schoubreck said.

‘‘And we have agreed to work closely to address issues relating to mental health complaints when he officially starts in the role on 1 July.’’

Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.