Virtual ED expands into mental health

In a WA-first, the State Government will launch a new mental health co-response model as part of the virtual emergency department within the State Health Operations Centre.

The $47 million funding package for the expansion of the WA Virtual ED (WAVED) will help to provide home-based mental health support to people in crisis. 

The model, based on successful trials in the eastern states, consists of a combination of virtual care and a mobile crisis response team with a paramedic and mental health practitioner. 

“These reforms have already contributed to a significant reduction in ambulance ramping, with ramping in the six months to March 2024 reducing 27% compared with the same period last year,” Premier Roger Cook said. 

“This year’s Budget is building on the work we have already started, including the expansion of WA Virtual ED to support more patients to receive the care they need in the community. 

“It will reduce avoidable emergency department attendances and hospital admissions and improve the experience and outcomes for mental health patients.” 

The announcement came as part of reforms to address the underlying causes of ambulance ramping and builds on the $672.5 million already invested, including $122.4 million for a program to provide step down aged care beds for people who are discharged from hospital and $60.1 million for community mental health treatment. 

In addition to allocating $7.9 million for the Mental Health Co-Response model, the WAVED expansion package also includes: 

  • $28 million over four years for additional clinical full-time equivalent within WAVED, enabling it to significantly expand its staffing and patient numbers; 
  • $8.6 million over two years to expand geriatric-led virtual care services through the Community Health in a Virtual Environment (CoHIVE) initiative; 
  • $1.4 million to co-fund a 24-month pilot of Extended Care Paramedics with St John WA, with highly trained paramedics to assess and treat suitable patients at the scene; and 
  • $1.1 million to extend nurse practitioner in-reach care through the Residential Care Line. 

Other new and continuing initiatives announced in the 2024-25 State Budget to improve emergency access include: 

  • $6.2 million for the Patient Transport Coordination Hub; 
  • $10.2 million to expand nation-leading pilots that give hospital patients access to respite care and flexible packages to support their discharge into the community; 
  • $22.2 million to continue the From Hospital to Home Disability Transition Care Program; and 
  • $1.1 million to extend geriatric outreach services at North Metropolitan Health Service. 

ED: Read how WA health providers are signing up for a digital revolution, in our May edition at