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Key principles

Principle 1: Referral

Referring professionals document a clear reason for the referral to the mental health professional accompanied by the relevant history and key presenting issues.

Principle 2: Mental Health Treatment Plan templates

Where applicable referring professionals use standardised templates such as the GPMHSC templates to document information relevant to the patient’s presentation.

Principle 3: Provision of relevant information

In order to enhance the patient’s mental health service, referring professionals, with patient consent, provide the mental health professional with a copy of any relevant reports or communication with other health professionals.

Principle 4: Acceptance of referral

Mental health professionals confirm acceptance of the referral, and inform the patient and the referring professional if there is a delay in the patient’s access to treatment.

Principle 5: Required communication under Better Access

Before treatment begins, the treating mental health professional informs patients about what communication is required to occur with the referring professional and the form in which it will occur (e.g., email, fax, telephone). During treatment, patients are informed about the need for any additional communication over and above what was explained at the outset of treatment.

Principle 6: Provision of test results

The results of relevant tests and inventories administered to the patient are shared with other health providers.

Principle 7: Relapse communication coordination

Mental health professionals are alert to changes in patient presentation and circumstances that may increase the risk of deteriorating mental health. They communicate any such changes to the referrer and any other relevant health professionals as a matter of course rather than waiting for established referral requirements (e.g., sixth session or at termination if under Better Access). When considering the time frame for communication, the interests of the patient are paramount.

Principle 8: Prescriber communication

Referring professionals ensure relevant information about medication is provided to mental health professionals, including any ongoing issues relating to medication.

Principle 9: Mental health professionals’ awareness of medication issues

Mental health professionals are mindful of the implications of medication issues for their patients, are attentive to any presenting medication problems, and communicate these concerns or observations to the referring professional.

Principle 10: Risk assessment and planning

Mental health professionals conduct regular risk assessments, provide risk management plans and share information with other treating professionals as appropriate.

Principle 11: Patient attendance

As part of informing the referrer about patient progress, including in treatment reports, mental health professionals communicate any attendance issues to the referring professional and any action taken to reengage with the patient who stopped attending.

Principle 12: Secure Message Delivery

Mental health professionals utilise SMD to communicate patient health information when using electronic communication methods.

Principle 13: Timely communication

Communication between professionals is conducted in a timely manner which is critical for patient wellbeing but also to facilitate professional respect and goodwill. The degree of urgency determines the communication medium and time frame that is most appropriate.

Principle 14: Health professionals recognise the value of effective communication

Health professionals recognise the value of effective communication with other health professionals as best practice service delivery even when there is no remuneration for the time commitment.

Principle 15: Scheduled case consultation

Health professionals schedule time for consultation or case reviews with other professionals as part of routine patient care.

Principle 16: Administrative staff support communication practices

Practice staff are trained to support and facilitate communication between health professionals.

Principle 17: Informed consent

Health professionals seek patient consent to communicate information to other health professionals and respect the patient’s wishes should they refuse consent, unless risk issues require steps to be taken.

Principle 18: Explaining the implications of not providing consent

Health professionals inform the patient of the potential implications of not providing consent for communication between health professionals.


Practice guide: Communication between medical and mental health professionals