Series VPRS 17945
Master Inpatient Index Cards (also known as Statistical Record Cards), Chief Psychiatrist
About this Series Related Series Accessing the records in this Series
Date Range: Series 1912 - 1983
  Series in Custody 1912 - 1983
  Contents 1865 - 1983
Public Access: Closed
Location: North Melbourne
Format of Records: Physical
Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1912 - 1934 Lunacy Department (located in Chief Secretary's Department) VA 2864
1934 - 1944 Department of Mental Hygiene (located in Chief Secretary's Department VA 475) VA 2865
1944 - 1978 Department of Health I VA 695
1978 - 1983 Health Commission of Victoria VA 652
Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
2015 - cont Department of Health and Human Services VA 5037
Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series
  • How to use the Records
    Consult the list/s of records in this series and follow these steps to locate a particular index card:

    Step one
    Find the unit containing the appropriate alphabetical grouping for the patient's surname.

    Step two
    Look through each category of cards in the box (patients on trial leave or still in care / discharged patients / deceased patients) for the appropriate card.

    Step three
    It is recommended that a search be carried out in all sequences regardless of whether the
    researcher has prior knowledge of the patients circumstances (e.g. that a patient died in a
    certain year) to avoid the possibility of the card being missed through mis-filing.

    It should also be noted that this series ceased to be maintained in 1983. Therefore it presents a static picture of the patient's status at that time.

    Researchers should note the access restrictions which apply to these records.

  • Function / Content
    This series consists of cards maintained by a succession of Government agencies responsible for mental health over the period 1912 - 1983, the contents however date from as early as 1865. The series was created in 1912 when it replaced the system of sending "Nominal Registers", "Mental and Bodily Statements" and copies of reception papers to the Inspector General of the Insane's Office. These cards form an index of all inpatients of mental health facilities over the period 1912 - 1983. Cards were created initially for all patients in institutions on 1st April 1912.

    Until the establishment of the Mental Retardation Division in 1981, the provision of care for people with intellectual disabilities and those with psychiatric illness was managed by the same government body. This card system also includes people who resided in "Mental Deficiency Training Centres", such as Janefield and Kew Cottages.

    From 1963 onward the cards became more detailed and were also used for the collection of statistical data on mental health. At this time they were also known as Statistical Record Cards.

    Cards were created for every inpatient admitted into psychiatric care (including voluntary boarders). Yellow cards were used for males and white cards for females. Orange cards were used for repatriation patients. The cards were created by psychiatric institutions and sent to the Head Office of the department responsible for mental health, for retention. This was the centralised way in which the location of patients, and their previous hospitalisations was monitored. A pink copy of each card was made and retained for use by the institution concerned.

    Each card contains some or all of the following patient details:

    - name, sex, date of birth, age, address, religion and martial status of the patient
    - date of admission and type of admission and the name of the institution
    - patient's nationality, country of birth year and age of arrival in Australia, length of residence here and whether naturalised
    - patient's mental and physical condition, diagnosis and prognosis
    - patient's occupation, profession or vocation qualifications, whether currently employed and occupational status
    - next of kin details
    - name and address of the person signing the request to leave
    - names of the medical practitioners who certified the patient
    - an indication whether this was the patient's first reception and whether were previously in other facilities
    - section of the Lunacy Act under which the patient was committed
    - causation of insanity
    - dates of transfer, boarding out, probation, discharge, death or escape
    - dates examined, and, if relevant
    - cause of death.

    Cards also contain annual examination notes in the form of Superintendent's Report Sheets.

    The layout of the cards changed over the years. Most cards are folded with one page containing personal information about the patient, two pages containing space for movement details (if any) such as admission and discharge sheets. There are instances, however, of older single cards with print/writing on one or both sides.

    As patients were transferred to new hospitals within the psychiatric care system, details of subsequent admissions, discharges and trial leave (where applicable) were noted on the index cards. This information was obtained from the hospitals via the Return of Changes forms completed daily. If it were known with certainty that an individual had previously been admitted into care and that a card already existed for that individual, a new card was not required by the Head Office. A pink copy, however, had to be prepared if the hospital concerned did not have such a card on file.

    These cards have a number added, usually in the right hand corner in red pen These numbers usually have an M prefix (for example, M12345678) and were later used to create new computerised records of inpatient admissions.

    The early 1960's - a new statistical system

    Around 1961 the Department of Mental Health introduced a new statistical system which was designed to provide data on mental disorders in Victoria for administrative and epidemiological purposes.

    The Master Inpatient Cards (also known as Statistical Record Cards) were one of the five main forms used to collect statistics, along with code cards, Superintendent report sheets, prevalence lists and return of changes lists. The Statistical Record Card gradually replaced the individual record card of current patients used prior to 1961.

    Each statistical record card had a tear off portion which was used for recording information on the patient in a summarised format; these were known as code cards. The location of these cards was unknown as of 2015.

    The Superintendent's Report sheets, as already mentioned, were glued inside the statistical record cards, and the Return of Changes lists were used by the Head Office of the department concerned to update the patient's movements (i.e of trial leave, escapes and boarding out). These form part of this series. Unfortunately, it appears that in some instances previous Superintendent's Report Sheets were removed when the latest report was affixed to the patient's index card. Thus in some cases a patient's history over time was lost.

    Return of changes lists were created by mental hospitals on a daily basis, and provided a statement of patients' admissions, discharges and other movements. These were used by the head Office of the Department responsible for mental health to update the statistical record cards.

    The final format used for gathering information such as this was the prevalence list. The prevalence list was compiled from a study of all patients under the care of the Mental Health Authority (VA 692) on the 30th of November each year. The information contained in these lists is likely to be found in a summary form in the Chief Psychiatrist's annual report (not held in PROV custody).

  • Recordkeeping System
    Cards are arranged in strict alphabetical order within an alphabetical grouping in each box. (for example, box 1 might contain AA-ADAMR, box 2 ADAMS - AGG). Each alphabetical grouping includes three sequences:

    1. patients on trial leave or still in care
    2. discharged patients
    3. deceased patients

    For example, if a patient were discharged from a particular hospital then his or her inpatient index card would be removed from the sequence which contained patients on trial leave or still in care and placed into the sequence which contained discharged patients. Similarly, if a patient died while in psychiatric care then their card would be placed in the sequence which contained deceased cards. Each sequence is marked by a coloured divider: red for patients on trial leave or still in care, yellow for discharged patients and blue for deceased. The cards may not, however, always have been maintained in separate sequences. Changes which occurred after 1983 are not reflected in this arrangement. These changes were, however, recorded on the Office of Psychiatric Services (VA 2837) database.

    Record keeping in the late 1980's

    Following the abandonment of the card system for indexing patient records, a computerised record keeping system was developed for the Office of Psychiatric Services (VA 2837). This was known as the Medical Records Administration system. Data from active patient index cards was entered into the new system. However, generally the data from non-current patients (i.e deceased or discharged) was not transferred.

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Consignment Number Contents Date Range Public Access No. of Units
P0001 1865 - 1983 Closed 431
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