Data source and key concepts

National Residential Mental Health Care Database

The scope for this collection is all episodes of care in all government-funded residential mental health care (RMHC) services in Australia, except those RMHC services that are in receipt of funding under the Aged Care Act 1997 and subject to other Commonwealth reporting requirements. The inclusion of non‑government-operated services in receipt of government funding is optional.

Data Quality Statements for National Minimum Data Sets (NMDSs) are published annually via the AIHW’s Metadata Online Registry (METEOR). Statements provide information on the institutional environment, timeliness, accessibility, interpretability, relevance, accuracy and coherence. Previous years’ data quality statements are also accessible in METEOR.

In 2017–18, Queensland reclassified existing Community Care Units from admitted patient care to residential mental health service units.

For information related to staffing, beds and the number of RMHC facilities that provide specialised mental health care, visit the Specialised mental health care facilities section. More information about the coverage and data quality of this collection can be found in METEOR.

Key concepts

Key concept


Episodes of residential care

Episodes of residential care are defined as a period of care between the start of residential care (either through the formal start of the residential stay or the start of a new reference period (that is, 1 July)) and the end of residential care (either through the formal end of residential care, commencement of leave intended to be greater than 7 days, or the end of the reference period (that is, 30 June)). An individual can have one or more episodes of care during the reference period.

The state and territory mental health acts and regulations are designed to safeguard the rights and govern the treatment of patients with mental illness in admitted patient care, residential care and community-based services. The legislation varies between states and territories but all contain provisions for the assessment, admission and treatment of patients on an involuntary basis, defined as ‘persons who are compulsorily treated in hospital or in the community under state and territory mental health legislation for the purpose of assessment or provision of appropriate treatment or care’ (AIHW 2021).

Principal diagnosis

The principal diagnosis recorded for people who have an episode of residential mental health care is based on the broad categories listed in the Mental and behavioural disorders chapter (Chapter 5) of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision, Australian Modification (ICD-10-AM 11th edition). Further information can be found in the Health-related classifications section.


A resident is a person who receives residential care intended to be for a minimum of 1 night.

Residential care days

Residential care days refer to the number of days of care the resident received in the episode of residential care.

The number of days a resident was in residential care is calculated by subtracting the date on which the residential stay started from the episode end date and deducting any leave days. These leave days may occur for a variety of reasons, including receiving treatment by a health service or spending time in the community. Note that leave days taken prior to 2009–10 were not accounted for due to lack of data.

Residential mental health care

Residential mental health care refers to residential care provided by residential mental health services. A residential mental health service is a specialised mental health service that:

  • employs mental health trained staff on‑site

  • provides rehabilitation, treatment or extended care to residents for whom the care is intended to be on an overnight basis and in a domestic‑like environment

  • encourages the residents to take responsibility for their daily living activities.

These services include those that employ mental health trained staff on-site 24 hours per day and other services with less intensive staffing. However, all these services employ on‑site mental health trained staff for some part of the day.

Residential stay

Residential stay refers to the period of care beginning with a formal start of residential care and ending with a formal end of the residential care. It may involve more than one reference period (that is, more than one episode of residential care).

Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)

SEIFA is a product developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) that ranks areas in Australia according to relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage. It consists of 4 indexes based on information from the five-yearly Census, each being a summary of a different subset of Census variables and focuses on a different aspect of socio-economic advantage and disadvantage. Further details are available from the ABS.