Despairing psychiatrists have warned WA's top mental health official that patient care is deteriorating, particularly in emergency departments, because of a lack of staff and funding.
About 40 psychiatrists vented their frustrations at a meeting with Mental Health Commissioner Eddie Bartnik this week, with senior doctors claiming they could no longer provide the care that mentally ill patients needed.
Dr Aaron Groves, who chairs the WA branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, said members believed the number of mentally ill people needing treatment had risen to such a level in the past four years that available resources did not allow doctors to care for patients adequately.
"They outlined a long list of recent events which indicated how difficult the situation has become," Dr Groves said.
"Their impression was that upper levels of management in the Health Department and the Mental Health Commission did not seem to be aware of the impact on psychiatrists, who have started leaving the system in despair.
"Psychiatrists are also not willing to take on senior leadership roles because of continued frustration that the situation is deteriorating, despite the review by Bryant Stokes just last year.
"It has reached the point where many psychiatrists no longer want to continue working in the way in which they are expected to because many people's lives are being adversely affected."
Dr Groves said the college believed there was a substantial gap between funding and what was needed to address mental health issues.
"Too many people do not get access to the care they need at the time they need it," he said.
Shadow mental health minister Stephen Dawson said the Barnett Government needed to act swiftly to fix the problems.
"The Government can't keep papering over cracks and must implement the Stokes review recommendations as a priority because until then the system will remain in crisis," he said.
Mr Bartnik said he listened to the concerns and though progress had been made since the Stokes review, including an extra $134 million to services over the next four years, he accepted much more needed to be done.The commission was developing a 10-year mental health services plan and had two senior psychiatrists on staff to ensure clinicians were involved.