Mental health new client index, 2018 (Service level)

Identifying and definitional attributes

Metadata item type:Indicator
Indicator type:Indicator
Short name:Mental health new client index, 2018 (Service level)
METeOR identifier:633042
Registration status:Health, Candidate 02/10/2018

The percentage of new clients under the care of the mental health service organisation’s mental health services.

NOTE: This indicator is related to Mental health new client index (Jurisdictional level). There are no technical differences in the calculation methodologies between the Service level version and the Jurisdictional level version of this indicator.


Access to services by persons requiring care is a key issue and there is concern that the public mental health service system is inadequately responding to new people requiring care. There is concern that public sector mental health services invest a disproportionate level of resources in dealing with existing clients and too little in responding to the needs of new clients as they present.

Existing population treatment rates are relatively low.

Indicator set:Key Performance Indicators for Australian Public Mental Health Services (Service level version) (2018) Health, Candidate 09/08/2018

Collection and usage attributes

Computation description:


All public mental health service organisations.

Mental health clients for which a unique person identifier was not recorded, that is non-uniquely identifiable clients, are to be excluded.


  • Tracking a client’s service use back from the date of first contact in the reference period should be calculated as the five years preceding the date of first contact rather than on a calendar or financial year basis.
  • Client counts should be unique at the organisation level.

(Numerator ÷ Denominator) x 100


Number of new clients who received services from the mental health service organisation’s specialised mental health services within the reference period.

Numerator data elements:
Data Element / Data SetGuide for use

A new consumer is defined as a consumer who has not been seen in the five years preceding the first contact with the mental health service organisation in the reference period (inpatient, residential or community).


Number of consumers who received services from the mental health service organisation’s specialised mental health services within the reference period.


Service variables: setting, target population

Consumer attributes: age, Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), remoteness, Indigenous status

Representational attributes

Representation class:Percentage
Data type:Real
Unit of measure:Person


Indicator conceptual framework

Framework and dimensions:Accessible

Accountability attributes


Levels at which the indicator can be useful for benchmarking:

  • mental health service organisation
  • regional group of services
  • state/territory.
Further data development / collection required:

This indicator cannot be accurately constructed using mental health National Minimum Data Sets because they do not include unique patient identifiers that allow links across data sets and financial reporting years.

There is no proxy solution available. Construction of this indicator at a national level requires separate indicator data to be provided individually by states and territories.

Development of state-wide unique patient identifiers within all mental health NMDSs is needed to improve this capacity.

Other issues caveats:
  • This indicator presents complexities at the analysis stage. For example, there are several approaches to defining ‘new client’ that depend on how the following issues are resolved:
    * Level of the mental health system at which ‘newness’ is defined: Consumers new to a particular organisation may be existing consumers of other organisations. Counts of new consumers at the state/territory level would certainly yield lower estimates than those derived from organisation-level counts.
    * Diagnosis criteria for defining ‘newness’: A consumer may present with a new condition, although they have received previous treatment for a different condition.
  • To date, the approach has been to specify an initial measure for implementation with a view to further refinement following detailed work to address the complexities associated with the definition of a new client and the possible implementation of unique state-wide patient identifiers within all jurisdictions.
  • This work does not take into account the activities of private mental health services, primary mental health care or the specialist private mental health sector.

Source and reference attributes

Submitting organisation:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on behalf of the National Mental Health Performance Subcommittee

Reference documents:

National Mental Health Performance Subcommittee (NMHPSC) 2013. Key Performance Indicators for Australian Public Mental Health Services, 3rd edn. Canberra: NMHPSC.

Relational attributes

Related metadata references:

Supersedes KPIs for Australian Public Mental Health Services: PI 09 – New client index, 2015– Health, Standard 19/11/2015