Mental health nurses are here to support GPs to care for consumers with mental health conditions

Monday 16 August 2021


On Thursday, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) told the House Select Committee on Mental Health
and Suicide Prevention that Australia’s mental health care system is critically underfunded, even before taking into account the impact of COVID-19. The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) points out that mental health nurses are a highly-skilled workforce that could be better utilised to address this issue.


AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid called for more spending on mental health, with public mental health care cracking under the pressure of growing consumer demand.


Dr Khorshid said that “there are not enough psychiatrists in Australia and there is likely to be increased demand for their services generated by the pandemic. We urgently need an alternative to emergency departments treating people experiencing acute mental ill-health.”


The ACMHN calls on government to not only increase funding for the country’s mental health services, but to also reconsider its targeting.


Mental health nurses (MHNs) previously provided support for the so called ‘missing middle’ – those often too unwell for primary care, but not unwell enough for state-based services, but MHNs are now unable to access a large number of Medicare Benefits Schedule items.


“Qualified MHNs are willing and able to help. Yet, they’re largely ignored when it comes to government funding and policy,” ACMHN President Professor Mike Hazelton said.


AMA NSW President Dr Danielle McMullen said that “we know investment in well-designed, medically governed health teams result in better health outcomes and General Practice can oversee stronger coordination of things like older persons’ mental health, mental health nurses, psychologists, paediatricians, counsellors and drug, alcohol and gambling support.”


“We welcome Dr McMullen’s statement, and are strongly encouraging government to thoroughly consider qualified mental health nurses in their policymaking. There are a number of GPs around the country who have previously worked with MHNs in general practice with very good results. The untapped potential of mental health nurses could significantly contribute to stabilising Australia’s ailing mental health care services, particularly in times of prolonged lockdowns and uncertainty due to COVID-19,” Professor Hazelton said. 


For further comment, please contact ACMHN President, Dr Mike Hazelton on 0448 121 012 or at president@acmhn.org.


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