Mental health nurses sidelined in discussions on how to tackle
Australians’ growing mental health needs
Friday 20 August 2021
Responding to calls from the Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPi) to allow trainee psychologists and retirees to provide Medicare-rebated services, the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) urges government to first consider highly-skilled mental health nurses in its pandemic mental health response.
COVID-19 has only made worse the challenges faced by those working in the mental health sector, with
Lifeline receiving call volumes up to 40 per cent higher than in 2019.
Mental health nurses (MHNs) should urgently be given access to a broader range of Medicare Benefits
Schedule (MBS) items to stem the growing weight pressing on Australia’s mental health care services.
“It is difficult to understand why we would want to mobilise practitioners who are still in training such as
provisional psychologists and those who have retired, when there are many well-trained and qualified MHNs available,” ACMHN President Professor Mike Hazelton said.
“MHNs are ready and able to help but are limited in what they can do currently due to not being able to access MBS funding. In effect, these mental health nurses have been sidelined at a time when their knowledge and skills would be of great benefit to the community.”
Following yesterday’s call by AAPi, the ACMHN points out that investment in psychological services doesn’t
always yield best results.
“Unfortunately, previous investment into psychological services has not shown any significant improvements in the mental health outcomes for the population,” ACMHN Vice-President Professor John Hurley said.
MHNs are able to deliver holistic care for consumers and their families. Many MHNs also work with GPs and psychiatrists as part of a team treating moderate to complex needs, ensuring better outcomes for consumers.
“Credentialed MHNs all hold basic qualifications as registered nurses but have also gained postgraduate
qualifications specific to mental health; they have an extensive range of capabilities including counselling and psychotherapy skills, medication administration and monitoring, and physical health assessment,” Professor Hazelton said.
“Yet MHNs continue to be sidelined by government policy, preventing them from being as effective as they
could be during this crisis,” Professor Hurley added.
Responding to an ABC article featuring AAPi Executive Director Tegan Carrison’s call for provisional
psychologists to be able to provide Medicare-rebated services, Professor Hurley expressed disappointment that the ACMHN was not contacted for insight into how mental health nurses are able to support Australians.
For further comment, please contact ACMHN President, Dr Mike Hazelton on 0448 121 012 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.