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  • Seclusion is defined as the confinement of a patient at any time of the day or night alone in a room or area from which free exit is prevented. The purpose, duration, structure of the area and awareness of the patient are not relevant in determining what is or is not seclusion.

    Seclusion also applies if the patient agrees to or requests confinement and cannot leave of their own accord. However, if voluntary isolation or 'quiet time' alone is requested and the patient is free to leave at any time then this social isolation or 'time out' is not considered seclusion.

    While seclusion can be used to provide safety and containment at a time when this is considered necessary to protect patients, staff and others, it can also be a source of distress not only for the patient but for support persons, representatives, other patients, staff and visitors. Wherever possible, alternative, less restrictive ways of managing a patient's behaviour should be used, and the use of seclusion minimised.

    Background

    In 2005, Health Ministers endorsed the National safety priorities in mental health: a national plan for reducing harm, Australia's first national statement about safety improvement in mental health. This plan identified 4 priority areas for national action including 'reducing use of, and where possible eliminating, restraint and seclusion'. Seclusion may be used across the range of mental health services, however, it is most commonly used in the acute specialised mental health hospital service setting. Subsequently, this service setting has been the focus of quality improvement initiatives.

    In line with the 2005 plan, there have been a number of initiatives aimed at reducing seclusion and restraint in public mental health facilities, including a number of ad hoc seclusion data collections. More recently, the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council's (AHMAC) and the Safety and Quality Partnership Standing Committee (SQPSC), in partnership with relevant state and territory authorities, have formalised a routine, national seclusion data collection and reporting framework. The recent implementation of the Mental Health Seclusion and Restraint National Best Endeavours Dataset Specification will standardise the national collection of both seclusion and restraint data (and provide a more detailed data set) from the 2015–16 collection period.

    Overview

    Nationally, there were 7.8 seclusion events per 1,000 bed days in 2014–15; a decrease from 11.8 in 2010–11 (Figure AD.8). This represents an average annual reduction of 10.0% over the 5–year period.


    Figure AD.8: Rate of seclusion events, public sector acute mental health hospital services, 2010–11 to 2014–15

    Vertical bar chart showing the rate of seclusion events per 1,000 bed days in public sector acute mental health hospital services from 2010-11 to 2014-15. The rate has continued to decrease over the 5 year period. In 2010-11 the rate was 11.8, in 2011-12 (10.4), 2012-13 (9.6), 2013-14 (8.1) and 2014-15 (7.8). Refer to table AD.18.

    Source: State and territory governments, unpublished.
    Source data: Admitted patient mental health-related care Table AD.18. (1.0MB XLS).


    States and territories

    Over time

    In 2014–15, the Northern Territory had the highest rate of seclusion with 31.0 seclusion events per 1,000 bed days and the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest (2.7). Seclusion rates have fallen for 6 of the 8 jurisdictions between 2010–11 and 2014–15 (Figure AD.9).

    Data for smaller jurisdictions should be interpreted with caution as small changes in the number of seclusion events can have marked impact on the overall jurisdictional rate. Further jurisdictional-specific information about seclusion data is available in the accompanying data quality statement.


    Figure AD.9: Rate of seclusion events, public sector acute mental health hospital services, states and territories, 2010–11 to 2014–15

    Clustered bar chart showing the seclusion rate per 1,000 bed days for all jurisdictions over the 5 years from 2010–11 to 2014–15. The majority of jurisdictions show a decreasing rate of seclusion events from 2010–11 to 2014–15; NSW (9.4 to 7.7), Vic (15.1 to 7.5), Qld (17.2 to 11.4), WA (8.3 to 4.3), SA (7.7 to 5.0) & Tas (14.7 to 10.1). ACT and the NT show an increase in the rate of seclusion events per 1,000 bed days, 0.7 to 2.7 for the ACT and 19.9 to 31.0 for NT. Total 11.8 to 7.8. Refer to Table AD.18

    Notes:

    1. The increase in the state-wide Tasmanian seclusion rate for 2012–13 and 2013–14 data is due to a small number of clients having an above average number of seclusion events.

    2. Victoria has fewer beds per capita than other jurisdictions, and as such, it may be useful to view the rate of seclusion events in a broader population context (rates per capita).

    3. Due to the low ratio of beds per person in the NT compared with other jurisdictions, the apparent rate of seclusion is inflated when reporting seclusion per bed day compared with reporting on a population basis. Also, high rates of seclusion for a few individuals have a disproportional effect on the rate of seclusion reported.

    Source: State and territory governments, unpublished.
    Source data: Admitted patient mental health-related care Table AD.18. (1.0MB XLS).


    Frequency and duration

    Frequency and duration of seclusion events were collected for the first time in 2013–14.

    One in 20 (5.0%) episodes of care provided by Australian public sector specialised acute hospital services involved a seclusion event in 2014–15, a slight decrease from 2013–14 (5.3%). The Northern Territory had the highest proportion of episodes with a seclusion event (9.7%), while South Australia had the lowest (2.7%). The average number of seclusion events for patients who were secluded was 2.0 events per admitted care episode in 2014–15 which was relatively unchanged from the 2013–14 result (2.1). The Australian Capital Territory was unable to provide the number of admitted patient care episodes and as such is excluded from the national proportion of seclusion events per episode.

    The average duration of a seclusion event excluding Forensic services was 5.4 hours in 2014–15, down from 6.0 hours in 2013–14. Forensic services provide services primarily for people whose health condition has led them to commit, or be suspected of, a criminal offence or make it likely that they will reoffend without adequate treatment or containment. Forensic service data has been excluded as forensic seclusion events are typically of longer duration, and substantially skew the overall duration average. Data for South Australia is also excluded from the national average duration due to its use of a 4 hour block recording methodology.

    Victoria reported the longest average seclusion duration with an average of 8.0 hours per seclusion event. The Australian Capital Territory had the shortest, of 2.2 hours (Figure AD.10).


    Figure AD.10: Average number of hours in seclusion per seclusion event, public sector acute mental health hospital services (excluding Forensic events), states and territories, 2013–14 to 2014–15

    Vertical bar chart showing the average number of hours spent in seclusion per seclusion event, 2013–14 to 2014-15.  Victoria was the highest in both 2013-14 and 2014-15 (9.5 & 8.0), followed by NT (6.4 & 7.9), NSW (6.0 & 5.8), Tas (4.1 & 2.5), QLD (3.8 & 3.4), WA (2.4 & 2.7) and the ACT (2.1 & 2.2). Total for 2013-14 6.0 and 2014-15 5.4. The average seclusion duration could not be calculated for SA due to differences in reporting methodology. Refer to Table AD.18.

    Notes:

    1. Due to longer duration times in Forensic settings, these events have been excluded from this analysis. South Australia report seclusion duration in 4 hour blocks. Therefore, the average seclusion duration cannot be calculated for this figure.

    2. Queensland and the Northern Territory do not report any acute Forensic services, however forensic patients can and do access acute care through General units.

    Source: State and territory governments, unpublished.
    Source data: Admitted patient mental health-related care Table AD.18. (1.0MB XLS).


    Target population

    Seclusion data can also be presented by the target population of the acute specialised mental health hospital service where the seclusion event occurred. Around three quarters (76.8%) of in-scope care (total number of bed days) was provided by General services. Older person services accounted for 13.5% followed by Forensic (5.9%) and Child and adolescent (3.8%) services.

    However, data should be interpreted with caution as this methodology uses the target population of the service unit, that is, the age group that the service is intended to serve, not the age of each individual patient. Also, in 2013–14, improvements were made to the reporting of target population categories. The mixed category was removed as an option for reporting. Data for the Mixed category was most commonly a mix of General, Child and adolescent and/or Older person services. Time series data by target population must therefore be approached with caution.

    Over time

    The highest rate of seclusion was for Child and adolescent services with 12.0 seclusion events per 1,000 bed days, followed by General services (9.1), Forensic services (4.9) and Older person services (0.4). Although a reduction in seclusion rates for the 5 years to 2014–15 was observed for General, Child and adolescent, Older person and Forensic services, some variability is apparent from year to year (Figure AD.11).


    Figure AD.11: Rate of seclusion events, public sector acute mental health hospital services, by target population, 2010–11 to 2014–15

    Clustered bar chart showing the rate of seclusion events per 1,000 bed days for all target populations over the 5 years from 2010–11 to 2014–15. Majority of target populations show a decreasing rate of seclusion events from 2010–11 to 2014–15; General (13.1 to 9.1), Child and adolescent (16.6 to 12.0), Older person (1.2 to 0.4), Forensic (5.2 to 4.9) & mixed (12.3 to 10.0; data up to 2012-13 only). The mixed category was not reported from 2013–14.  Refer to Table AD.19

    Note: Queensland and the Northern Territory do not report any acute Forensic services, however forensic patients can and do access acute care through General units.

    Source: State and territory governments, unpublished.
    Source data: Admitted patient mental health-related care Table AD.19 (1.0MB XLS).


    Frequency and duration

    Forensic services reported the highest proportion of episodes of care involving seclusion events, with 9.0% of all mental health-related episodes involving seclusion. This was followed by General (5.3%), Child and adolescent (3.9%), and Older person (0.8%) services, with all rates relatively stable compared with 2013–14.

    Child and adolescent services had the highest frequency of seclusion, with 2.8 seclusion events per episode when seclusion was used at least once during an episode of care. Seclusion events that occurred in Forensic services had the longest average duration; 78.1 hours per seclusion event, which is much greater than all other target population categories (1.6 to 5.6 hours). This may also be partly due to the way seclusion is recorded in Forensic services. General services reported an average time of 5.6 hours per seclusion event, followed by Older person (4.4 hours) and Child and adolescent (1.6 hours) services. Average time of the seclusion event decreased for General services, increased for Forensic services, and was similar for the other target population groups between 2013–14 and 2014–15 (Figure AD.12).


    Figure AD.12: Average number of hours in seclusion per seclusion event, public sector acute mental health hospital services, by target population, 2013–14 to 2014–15

    Vertical bar chart showing the average number of hours in seclusion per seclusion event by target population from 2013-14 to 2014-15. Forensic services had the highest average number of hours in seclusion per seclusion event 64.7 in 2013-14 and  78.1 in 2014-15. General (6.3 & 5.6), older person (3.5 & 4.4) and child and adolescent (1.3 & 1.6). Refer to Table AD.19.

    Notes:

    1. South Australia report seclusion duration in 4 hour blocks. Therefore, average duration seclusion figures do not include South Australia.

    2. Queensland and the Northern Territory do not report any acute Forensic services, however forensic patients can and do access acute care through General units.

    Source: State and territory governments, unpublished.
    Source data: Admitted patient mental health-related care Table AD.19 (1.0MB XLS).


    Remoteness

    Due to the small number of hospitals located in Outer Regional and Remote areas, for the purpose of remoteness analysis these categories have been combined. There were no hospitals in this dataset located in Very Remote areas.

    In 2014–15, hospitals located in Major Cities had a seclusion rate of 7.2 events per 1,000 bed days. This rate was lower than that for Inner Regional facilities (8.0) and Outer Regional and Remote area facilities combined (18). The proportion of mental health-related admitted care episodes with a seclusion event was similar across facilities in all areas.

    On average, seclusion events in facilities in Major Cities were longer in duration (9.1 hours) than those in Outer Regional and Remote (5.8) and Inner regional (5.1) areas.

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