Mental health scrutiny very poor: inquiry

By Alexandra Patrikios

Australia's mental health services don't properly consider if their clinical methods are even working, a leading child and adolescent mental health expert has told a Brisbane inquiry.

The commission of inquiry into the Barrett Adolescent Psychiatric Centre began in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday, charged with investigating issues surrounding the closure of the Wacol centre.

The site provided long-term in-patient mental health treatment for people under 18 but closed in January 2014.

Within eight months of it shutting its doors, three former patients had died.

Professor Brett McDermott, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and one-time board director of BeyondBlue, on Tuesday told the inquiry he was "extremely worried" after learning the BAC would be closed.

He believed there would be a constant need for a facility in southeast Queensland providing a small number of beds for those requiring "profound levels of need".

The former executive director of the Mater Health Services Child and Youth Mental Health Services said such cases were also hindered by a systemic failure to properly assess and evaluate mental health interventions - not just in Queensland, but across the board.

"We are very poor at looking at the clinical effectiveness of our interventions," Prof McDermott said.

He said key performance indicators alone couldn't tell clinicians if a patient had improved, and recommended publication of systems of care literature.

"If you don't do this you will actually never be able to answer some of the most pertinent questions," he said of the inquiry.

The inquiry before Commissioner Margaret Wilson continues.

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