Mental health nurses welcome participation in important Mental Health Equity and Access forum.

Monday 30 January 2023

The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses has been invited to participate in the Mental Health Equity and Access Forum in Canberra today. ACMHN President Professor Michael Hazelton will be joining other representatives from key stakeholder groups in the mental health sector, to advocate on behalf of mental health nurses and prioritise the need for improvements in the services provided to Australians living with mental ill-health in all locations and services settings. 

The Forum will be part of the Government’s post-evaluation consultations of Better Access, with Federal Health Minister the Hon Mark Butler MP and the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, the Hon Emma McBride MP.

The final report of an independent evaluation of the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule initiative (Better Access), undertaken by the University of Melbourne, was released on 12 December 2022.

“As the first major Commonwealth Government response to the recommendations of the Better Access review, Minister Butler's Mental Health Equity and Access Forum presents the occasion for discussion surrounding an enhanced role that mental health nurses (MHNs) could play in the potential service developments arising from the Better Access final report. It is clear that large numbers of highly vulnerable people currently struggle to connect with holistic evidence based mental health care, especially in outer suburban, regional and rural locations. Mental health nurses can be found in most locations across the country and have the skills and professional ethos to offer much needed care and support, especially to people in urgent need,” said Professor Michael Hazelton.

Minister Butler established the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce (SMT) in July 2022 to provide recommendations on the highest priority improvements to primary care. SMT’s final report will be released the next couple of weeks to guide decisions and finalise investment in Strengthening Medicare.

“The upcoming Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report will lay the groundwork for the overhaul of Medicare and the recommendations will speak to the missing middle mental health consumer population with long-term complex needs.”

“A rethink of the practice nurse role in GP practices is warranted and supported, and it could be argued that MHNs working in close collaboration with GPs to support people with moderate to severe prolonged mental health problems ought to be considered,” Professor Hazelton added.

The College asserts that this could be done on a 'block funded' basis and is able to offer a model for how it can be done, based on a revised and expanded version of the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program (MHNIP), that would be referred to as the Mental Health Nurse Access program (MAP).

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Australian College of Mental Health Nurses press release

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