The new RANZCP guidelines for the treatment of schizophrenia and related disorders highlights what we know works. In this paper, we examine why patients so often fail to benefit from this knowledge and why clinical practice falls so far short of the recommended standard. Instead of the continuous improvement that we expect of health care in general, in psychiatry we face an accelerating decline in systems of care. There has been a sustained underinvestment in public mental health care and a shared failure by State and Federal governments to construct and commit to a governance and funding model that can deliver the standard of care that is available in other major non-communicable diseases, and which we know is equally possible for severe mental illness. This paper sets out some of the reasons for the poor quality of care received by many people with schizophrenia and related disorders in Australia, and describes ways that care could be improved. In particular, we recommend an explicit statement of what constitutes an adequate standard of care, for people at all stages of these illnesses. This would help provide transparency about whether the care provided by mental health services achieves these benchmarks, and enable publication of results comparing the performance of different states and regional services. Patients and families, as well as professional, consumer and carer organizations would then be able to see clearly where the deficits are and demand resources and care that match the recommendations.
- mental health