Tackling Australia’s mental health crisis needs more than just better-trained GPs – it needs mental health nurses
Wednesday 2 March 2022
Responding to calls from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners for a Medicare restructure and extra mental health training for GPs, the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) has urged the Federal Government to consider greater access to MBS items for Credentialed Mental Health Nurses (CMHNs) first.
The College acknowledged that consumers facing mental health issues needed all the help they can get and that GPs would benefit from more training in the area more generally in order to provide the best care at the first point.
“If GPs were better trained at treating mental health issues and worked closely with CHMNs, they could make a real difference for those who are currently missing out on adequate treatment,” ACMHN Interim President Professor John Hurley said.
However, GPs shouldn’t be the first and only group of health clinicians to consider when planning to tackle Australia’s growing mental health crisis.
“CMHNs are highly-skilled mental health clinicians who’ve undergone a meticulous assessment by the ACMHN. Instead of relying on a workforce that still needs mental health training, the government would be well advised to consider the readily-available CMHN workforce first,” Professor John Hurley said.
“At the moment, CMHNs can only provide very limited services under Medicare, making it infinitely harder for them to work independently and help more Australians who require mental health support. That’s despite the fact that they have qualifications that are equal to those of other mental health clinicians.”
With one in three psychologists having closed their books to new patients, not giving CMHNs greater access to MBS items is simply illogical, according to Professor Hurley.
“CMHNs are able to provide the highest standard of holistic care, and understand how physical and mental health interact. They are ready, they are willing, let them help,” Professor Hurley said.
“With the review of the Better Access program underway, we hope that the Federal Government will take a close look at the skills of qualified mental health nurses, and finally give them the recognition they deserve.
“The greater the access to MBS items for CMHNs, the better the mental health care for Australians will be.”
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