Report of the Inquiry into the Esther Foundation and unregulated private health facilities

WAAMH welcomes the release of the Report of the Inquiry into the Esther Foundation and unregulated private health facilities.

WAAMH wrote a joint submission to the inquiry with the WA Network and other Drug Agencies and both peak bodies gave evidence to the Education and Health Standing Committee in a public hearing.

One of the things we highlighted was that demand for these unregulated services has been driven by a lack of access to properly funded and accredited services, and that such self-regulated services have been able to grow without being subject to the same level of transparency and quality and safety standards as accredited service providers. We particularly raised our concern about public services referring people to unregulated bodies. We also pointed to the fact that mental health services have an established regulatory framework in the form of the National Mental Health Standards and to receive funding organisations are required to be accredited.

The inquiry made several recommendations to address current regulatory gaps in unfunded, private services. These included a recommendation to undertake a review of the Private Hospitals and Health Services Act 1927, which governs the regulation of private psychiatric hostels. We support this recommendation, which we think should be comprehensive and examine whether the current Act is fit-for-purpose and aligned with expectations of a contemporary mental health service model.

Any private mental health service must be expected to comply with the same mental health standards as other equivalent services, so we expect any new licensing and regulatory schemes to draw on the National Mental Health Standards. Private services should be expected, like our members are, to fund the cost of their own accreditation.

Independent oversight is essential to ensure that the public and all levels of government can trust in services that are promoting themselves within their community and that community standards and expectations are being met.

We are also, in-principle, supportive of the provision of greater powers to the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office and we also support the recommendation and WA Government’s subsequent announcement to ban conversion therapy practices.

We look forward to working with the WA Government on any next steps which we hope will be progressed as a matter of priority.