Performance indicators to be used in assessing mental health services

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 June, 2009, 12:00am

The Hospital Authority will develop performance indicators to assess its mental health services, a decade after it adopted a controversial community care policy.

The authority has been criticised for providing inadequate community support for discharged mental patients. Only a quarter of the 40,000-odd schizophrenia patients get regular visits from psychiatric nurses, and fewer than 28,000 receive a new generation of drugs with fewer side effects.

The services came under scrutiny after a schizophrenia patient registered for outpatient care allegedly chopped a three-year-old boy to death in Sham Shui Po on May 29.

Margaret Tay Siok-mui, the authority's chief manager of the integrated care programme, admitted mental health care was lagging behind that of some developed countries. She said the authority was working out a set of 'key indicators' to measure the performance of mental health services, which would include length of stay and readmission rate. Five per cent of mental patients are readmitted within 28 days after their discharge.

The authority will spend HK$20 million in the coming year to provide follow-up checks. Some high-risk cases would be taken care of by a case manager after their discharge.

Tim Pang Hung-cheong, spokesman for the Patients Rights Association, said assessment of mental care must take into account patients' satisfaction. He said many patients had complained about short consultation times and inadequate community support.

Former Medical Association president Choi Kin said key indicators should include the length of stay, relapse rate, interval between two consultations and percentage of patients taking new drugs.

'In Hong Kong, many mental patients are still taking the old drugs [that trigger] serious side effects such as hand-trembling and rigidity in movement, which make it so difficult for them to lead a normal life,' Dr Choi said. 'Many developed countries are giving out new drugs with fewer side effects to more than 80 per cent of their mental patients.'