Key messages

  • When a person with mental illness needs to be taken to or from a designated mental health service under the Mental Health Act 2014, transport should be provided by the least restrictive means possible.
  • The Act sets out who can apprehend and transport people with mental illness and the actions they can take.
  • Ambulance paramedics are authorised persons under the Act.
  • The Act enables authorised persons to enter premises, apprehend people, use reasonable force and bodily restraint and transport people to a designated mental health service in prescribed circumstances.

The Mental Health Act 2014 sets out who can apprehend and transport people with mental illness and the actions they can take.

Transport of people with mental illness

People with mental illness may need to be taken to or from a designated mental health service under a provision of the Act. When this happens, transport should be provided by the least restrictive means possible.

In many cases a person with mental illness can be safely transported by private car, in a mental health service vehicle or by non-emergency patient transport. However where this is not safe, Ambulance Victoria is responsible for providing transport.

Protocol for the transport of people with mental illness 2014

The protocol for the transport of people with mental illness 2014 provides guidance on the transport of people with mental illness, contributing to improvements in the delivery of services. It is designed to help health and mental health professionals, Ambulance Victoria, non-emergency transport providers, consumers and carers to arrange appropriate transport for people with mental illness.

This protocol replaces the Ambulance transport of people with a mental illness protocol 2010.
It has been updated to reflect the Mental Health Act 2014 (Act) and changes to transport practice.

Who is authorised to transport patients?

The Act permits an authorised person to enter premises, apprehend people and transport them to a designated mental health service with the use of reasonable force and bodily restraint in prescribed circumstances , for example:

  • where a person is subject to an Inpatient Assessment Order, Inpatient Temporary Treatment Order or Inpatient Treatment Order to enable the person to be taken to a designated mental health service
  • where a person is apprehended under section 351 of the Act and police request the assistance of an ambulance to take the person to a designated mental health service
  • where a patient is absent without leave from a designated mental health service.

Ambulance paramedics are ‘authorised persons’. Other authorised persons are police officers, medical practitioners employed by a designated mental health service and mental health practitioners.

Use of bodily restraint and sedation

Bodily restraint and sedation can be used to safely take a person to or from a designated mental health service or any other place.

Bodily restraint

Bodily restraint is any form of physical or mechanical restraint that prevents a person having free movement of his or her limbs.

An ambulance paramedic may use bodily restraint on a person in order to take them to or from a designated mental health service or any other place if:

  • all reasonable and less restrictive options have been tried or considered and have been found to be unsuitable, and
  • it is necessary to prevent serious and imminent harm to the person or to another person.

Sedation

In order to safely transport a person, an ambulance paramedic may administer sedation if it is within the ordinary scope of his or her practice.

In addition, a registered medical practitioner may direct an ambulance paramedic to administer sedation to the person if:

  • all reasonable and less restrictive options for safely transporting the person have been tried or considered and have been found to be unsuitable
  • the sedation to be administered is necessary to prevent serious and imminent harm to the person or to another person.

Ambulance paramedics – search and seizure

Search

An ambulance paramedic may search a person who is being taken to or from a designated mental health service or any other place.

An ambulance paramedic may search a person before the person is transported if they suspect that they are carrying anything that:

  • presents a danger to health and safety of the person or another person, or
  • could be used to assist the person to escape.

Before conducting the search, the ambulance paramedic must explain the purpose of the search to the person to the extent that is reasonable in the circumstances.

The power to search includes:

  • quickly running hands over the person’s outer clothing (a‘pat:down’ search) or passing an electronic metal device over or close to the person’s outer clothing
  • requiring the person to remove their overcoat, coat or jacket and any gloves, shoes or hat and examining those items of clothing
  • requiring the person to empty their pockets or allow their pockets to be searched.

The ambulance paramedic must inform the person being searched:

  • whether they will be required to remove clothing during the search
  • why it is necessary to remove the person’s clothing.

An ambulance paramedic must ask for the person’s cooperation.

An ambulance paramedic must conduct the search:

  • in a way that provides reasonable privacy for the person searched
  • as quickly as is reasonably practicable, and
  • if the person being searched is 16 years or younger, the search must be in the presence of a parent or, if a parent is not reasonably available, another adult.

An ambulance paramedic must conduct the least invasive kind of search practicable in the circumstances.

A pat down search must be conducted by:

  • an ambulance paramedic of the same sex as the person searched
  • a person of the same sex as the person searched under the direction of the ambulance paramedic.

Seizure

An ambulance paramedic may seize and detain a thing found as a result of a search if the ambulance paramedic is reasonably satisfied that the thing:

  • presents a danger to the health and safety of the person or another person, or
  • could be used to assist the person to escape.

If a thing is seized and detained the authorised person must make a written record that:

  • specifies the thing seized and detained
  • specifies the name of the person from whom the thing was seized and detained
  • specifies the date on which the thing was seized and detained, and
  • includes any other prescribed details.

An authorised person must give the following items to police as soon as practicable:

  • prohibited or controlled weapons
  • a drug of dependence or a substance, material, document or equipment used for the purpose of trafficking in a drug of dependence
  • firearms
  • a thing that the authorised person believes would present a danger to the health and safety of the person or another person if it was returned.

The authorised person must ensure that other items are stored for safekeeping so that the items can be returned to the person when it is safe to do so.