Co-ordination of care of woman with mental health and addiction issues


Co-ordination of care of woman with mental health and addiction issues

Decision from the HDC

Mental Health Commissioner Kevin Allan today released a report finding a District Health Board in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights for the care provided to a woman with mental health and addiction issues.

The woman was admitted to hospital following an episode of self harm with a history of anxiety and depression and daily alcohol use. She was reviewed by the Psychiatric Emergency Service (PES). The PES case manager verbally consulted with a clinical nurse specialist at the Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS) and requested a referral to the service regarding the woman’s alcohol use. CADS understood that PES would be continuing to work with the woman with regard to her mental health issues. However, after PES was unable to make further contact with the woman she was discharged by PES.

The woman later spoke with CADS by telephone and was referred to the Alcohol and Other Drug Coordination Service (AOD). The PES referral to CADS was withdrawn. The plan was for the AOD service to organise an assessment for the woman in a few weeks’ time. However, the woman had no further contact with DHB services before she was found to have passed away.

Mr Allan found that DHB staff separated the woman’s mental health and addiction issues from one another, and that the referral of the woman to AOD and her discharge from PES resulted in no one retaining clinical responsibility for her mental health issues, when either PES or CADS should have done so. Overall, there was a lack of critical thinking in relation to the co-existing disorders, resulting in inadequate co-ordination of care by the DHB. Mr Allan stated that this highlighted the importance of an integrated system of health care for consumers with co-existing mental health and addiction disorders.

Mr Allan recommended that the DHB review and update its Service Provision Framework to ensure that it explicitly clarifies and documents the transfer processes between services, the CADS criteria for acceptance, and the CADS telephone screening process; and provide evidence of changes made as a result of the review, and details of any other improvements to the interaction between PES, CADS, and AOD services. It was also recommended that the DHB provide an apology to the woman’s family.


CADS is an outpatient service responsible for providing comprehensive alcohol and drug assessment, treatment planning, and advice on referral for Specialist Mental Health Services.

AOD is a lower specification service that provides rehabilitation and support to people with alcohol and drug addictions.

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