Newly released data from AIHW contains inaccuracies about the mental health nursing profession – the ACMHN calls for a correction

Thursday 11 February 2021

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released workforce data which inaccurately represents the mental health nursing profession.

The Mental Health Services in Australia report claims to report upon workforce data relating to ‘a variety of health and social care professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, general practitioners and social workers that provide a range of mental health-related services to Australians’.

“The data is inadequate. The claim that 23,083 mental health nurses are included in the collection of the data is bureaucracy releasing information that is not a true representation of what is happening ‘on the ground,” said ACMHN President Dr Mike Hazelton.

“We call for a correction and would like to be consulted on the collection of future data relating to a topic that we are experts on,” continued Dr Hazelton.

In collecting and releasing this data, the Government has overlooked identifying qualified Mental Health Nurses (MHNs) who have undertaken specific study to be able to practice in the area of mental health and work with some of our society’s most in-need.

The data includes any nurse who is enrolled or registered to work as a nurse and may have outlined mental health nursing as a category of interest or desirable area to practice in.

The data also includes nurses who may be newly graduated and may have an intention to one day practice as a mental health nurse. While we support nurses training to become specialised in mental health nursing, lumping all nurses together under one umbrella is not correct data and misrepresents the profession and the resources available.

“More than ever, we need the Government to release correct data. Reports like this directly affect the accurate assessment of resources in our community and are just one reason why clients of a qualified practitioner in mental health nursing are still not able to received subsidised treatment through the MBS,” continued Dr Hazelton.

In 2018, almost 1 in 15 (23,083 or 7.0 per cent) nurses (including both registered and enrolled nurses) employed in Australia indicated they were working principally in mental health. Over 4 in 5 of these were registered nurses (85.2 per cent) with a similar profile seen for the total nursing workforce.

“Nurses in all disciplines do a very professional job but it is very clear that the Government needs to create a platform for collecting and reporting on the healthcare workforce that is not misleading and accurately quantifies the state of play,” concluded Dr Hazelton.

For further comment, please contact ACMHN President, Dr Mike Hazelton on 0448 121 012 or at


AIHW, Australian College of Mental Health Nurses press release, mental health nursing

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