Patients with mental health needs are not receiving the support they need once discharged from hospital, an Auditor-General's report has found.
The report found mental health services are stretched and some patients are being discharged from hospital because there is someone "more unwell" than them.
Greg Schollum, deputy controller and Auditor-General, looked at mental health services at the country's 20 District Health Boards between December 2015 and March 2016.
In 2015, 160,000 people accessed mental health services, and about 15,000 of them were inpatients.
The report found discharge planning is important to the welfare of patients, and that needed to look at hospital, housing and family support.
"Follow up with people after they had been discharged was not as timely as expected," the report said.
DHBs have a target of ensuring 90 per cent of patients receive follow up care within seven days.
But on average, that's only happening in two-thirds of cases.
One DHB was providing "inpatient services for significantly more people than it had beds for," the report said.
"People are sometimes discharged at short notice, and sometimes without the knowledge of community mental health teams or the person's family.
"There are clearly pressures on parts of the mental health system and support services that demand urgent attention and, potentially, innovative solutions.
"In this challenging context, the planning for discharging people dealing with acute mental health problems from hospital needs to be done to a high standard," the report found.
The report recommends urgent improvements.
Those include: Urgently finding ways for inpatient and community mental health teams to work together more effectively to prepare and implement discharge plans and improving guidance for staff.
It says the Health Ministry and DHBs need to quickly make improvements to how they use information to monitor outcomes for people using services.
It notes that since the report was done last year, there has been changes to services but it's too early to tell if those have made a difference.
Where can I get support and help?
Below is a list of some of the services available which offer support, information and help.
Lifeline 24/7 – 0800 543 354
Kidsline (aimed at children up to 18 years of age, available 24/7) – 0800 54 37 54
Depression Helpline 24/7 - 0800 111 757
Healthline - 0800 611 116
Samaritans - 0800 726 666 (for callers from the Lower North Island, Christchurch and West Coast) or 0800 211 211 / (04) 473 9739 (for callers from all other regions)
Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email email@example.com
What's Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1 pm to 11 pm) - 0800 942 8787
www.depression.org.nz - includes The Journal online help service
www.thelowdown.co.nz - visit the website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or free text 5626 (emails and text messages will be responded to between 12 noon and 12 midnight).