Department of Health

Key messages

  • People with a mental illness may need to be taken to or from a designated mental health service or any other place as provided by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 2022 (the Act).
  • Transport should be health led and take the least restrictive approach possible wherever reasonably practicable in the circumstances.
  • Shared protocols between the Department of Health, Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria are currently being developed to support the new Act.

People with a mental illness may need to be taken to or from a designated mental health service or any other place as provided by the Act. Transport should be health led and take the least restrictive approach possible wherever reasonably practicable in the circumstances.

Ambulances provide emergency transport, while other options depend on the amount of support required by the patient.

In many cases a person with a 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.

The Act sets out specific authorised persons, including registered paramedics employed by Ambulance Victoria, who can take a person into care and control to provide transport for people with a mental illness and the actions they can take.

The Act gives authorised persons the powers and responsibilities that may be necessary to provide safe transport under the Act. To learn more about the powers and obligations of authorised persons, see the Transport of mental health patients fact sheet.

Transport options

In all situations where a person requires transport to or from a designated mental health service or any other place, the decision about what form of transport is appropriate should be based on an assessment of the:

  • person’s mental and/or physical state
  • person’s immediate treatment needs to prevent serious deterioration in their physical or mental health, or serious harm to themselves or to another person
  • likely effect on the person of the proposed mode of transport
  • availability of the various modes of transport, including private and non-emergency patient transport (NEPT) vehicles
  • distance to be travelled
  • the person’s need for support and supervision during the period of travel, including any potential safety issues
  • expressed preferences of the person and/or their family or carer. Reasonable efforts should be made to help the person to make or participate in decisions about their transport and to transport them in the least restrictive manner possible.

Before arranging transport to a designated mental health service, a health or mental health professional should contact the receiving service to make arrangements for the person to be received.

The least restrictive transport option possible should be used. A range of transport options are described below.

Emergency ambulance

At times, emergency ambulances are the most appropriate transport option. Anyone can call for an emergency ambulance by dialling 000. The ambulance response time will be determined by the person’s clinical needs and available resources. The 000 call taker may also refer callers to a secondary triage service to determine whether an alternative response might be appropriate.

An emergency ambulance must always provide transport if the person’s medical needs can only be met by an ambulance service.

Mental health service vehicle with accompanying clinical staff

Authorised mental health practitioners have access to service vehicles and may transport people to or from a designated mental health service. Where the person does not require active monitoring or medical care and there are no perceived risks to the safety of the person or the mental health practitioners, agency vehicle transport may provide a less restrictive means of transport than ambulance or police vehicles.

In situations where a person is being transported to an inpatient service in a service vehicle, it is preferable that two mental health practitioners travel with the person, as driver and escort. A family member, carer or friend may also accompany the person in a service vehicle; however, consideration must be given to ensuring that the accompanying person has the means to return home.

Police may be able to provide an escort as a means of reducing the risk associated with transport in a service vehicle under certain circumstances and with clear expectations established and communicated between the mental health practitioner and police in the event of police intervention being required.

Private vehicle

In many instances a private vehicle driven by a family member, carer or friend may offer the person a supportive and familiar form of transport. Consideration should be given to the willingness and ability of family members, carers or friends to provide safe transport, as well as the person’s mental and physical state.

Taxi

Transport by taxi in the company of a family member, carer or friend may be appropriate for a person who needs to travel to or from a designated mental health service. Consideration must be given to the physical and mental state of the person and the availability and affordability of the taxi service.

Other non-emergency patient transport

In some areas, non-emergency patient transport (NEPT) is available. This service transports people who do not require a 000 ambulance response (who can wait a minimum of 90 minutes), with most transfers occurring between hospitals or from home to hospital.

NEPT may provide a more timely response than ambulance in non-urgent cases where NEPT is able to meet the clinical needs of the person.

NEPT includes high, medium and low acuity road and air transport.

Non-emergency patient transport may be booked:

  • by contacting a licensed provider
  • through Ambulance Victoria by calling 1300 366 313

Licenced NEPT providers are governed by the Emergency Patient Transport and First Aid Services Act 2003 and the Non-emergency Patient Transport Regulations 20016. Clinical Practice Protocols were also updated in 2023 to reflect the commencement of the Act. Persons receiving services for mental illness who are assessed as stable and suitable for transport according to the general criteria in the NEPT Regulations may be transported by licenced NEPT providers, regardless of:

  • the departure and arrival points of the transport
  • the level of acuity
  • whether restrictive interventions such as bodily restraint or chemical restraint may be required during transport. As NEPT providers cannot use bodily restraint or chemical restraint, this is only permitted where the requirements of the Act are met, for example if the person is accompanied by an registered medical practitioner, under the Actwho takes responsibility for the use of restraint or a registered nurse or registered paramedic employed by Ambulance Victoria who has been directed to use chemical restraint in accordance with the Act
  • whether the person is being transported under a provision of the Act or the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997.

Registered paramedics working a shift for a licenced NEPT provider are not authorised persons under the Act and cannot take a person into their care and control or exercises any other powers under that Act. For more information on transport powers of authorised persons, see

Police

Police transport should only be considered where a person cannot be safely transported by any other means. The experience of being apprehended and/or transported by police can be traumatic.

Less restrictive alternatives to police transport could include an ambulance with an accompanying mental health practitioner or police member in the ambulance.

Ambulance transport payment guidelines

The Ambulance transport payment guidelines for Victoria outline who has responsibility for the payment of clinically necessary patient transport provided by Ambulance Victoria and licensed NEPT providers

An appropriate health professional must medically authorise transport for it to be considered clinically necessary.

Please note, the guidelines will be updated periodically.

Reviewed 21 March 2024

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