The Victorian Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP Victorian Branch) is encouraged by the Interim Report released today by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (RCVMHS).
‘This report rightly acknowledges the devastating impact of decades of underinvestment on people living with mental illness, and is an important step towards designing and implementing a mental health system that meets the needs of all Victorians into the future,’ said RANZCP Victorian Branch Chair, Dr Kerryn Rubin.
The RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan affirmed this position: ‘We welcome the report’s commitment to commensurate new investment in mental health, immediate funding of more inpatient beds, an expansion of suicide prevention services and a greater focus on Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing.’
‘We are particularly supportive of the focus on an enhanced role for people with lived experience in the co-production of service design and delivery, which acknowledges their central role in establishing a more contemporary, humane, and fit for purpose mental health system.’
Chair of the RANZCP Victorian Branch, Dr Kerryn Rubin, said psychiatrists were relieved to see the report acknowledge many of the key areas of Victoria’s mental health system which require immediate action and reform.
‘We are pleased the report highlights the shortage and maldistribution of psychiatrists in the mental health workforce, the deficits in inpatients beds for people with complex needs, and the lack of treatment options for those Victorians (the ‘missing middle’) who do not meet the threshold for public mental health services.
‘There are significant shortages of psychiatrists especially in rural and regional areas. Compounding these shortages, the broader problems within the mental health system are negatively impacting recruitment and retention, with psychiatrists exiting the public system at alarming rates,’ said Dr Rubin.
‘We commend the immediate action on increased opportunities to expand and develop the workforce–including funded graduate positions, postgraduate scholarships and psychiatry rotations, leadership development and improved data.
‘However, alongside mandating psychiatry rotations for junior doctors, we urge an increase in funded positions for psychiatry trainees so as to turn an enhanced interest in psychiatry training into more actual psychiatrists in the public health system”
The RANZCP Victorian Branch has strongly advocated for investment to establish new inpatient beds across the state and for the recurrent funding to support these.
‘The number of safe inpatient beds across Victoria needs to grow to meet current and future demand, and we applaud the recommendation to provide an additional 170 acute mental health beds for young people and adults in areas of need as an important step in the right direction.
‘We have also called for urgent action to re-establish outpatient clinics for patients who are not acutely unwell enough to be admitted to an inpatient unit and are currently not able to access services.
‘People, their families and their communities are suffering. They are too unwell for GPs and primary health to support adequately, but do not meet the criteria for episodic or ongoing care through community mental health care, and so they fall into a large gap in the system,’ said Dr Rubin.
Dr Rubin said the report paved the way for the wide-ranging changes needed to improve Victoria’s mental health system but emphasised there is still much work to be done.
‘We will continue to work closely with psychiatrists, mental health service providers, as well as those with lived experience, their families and carers, and we look forward to providing further input into the Commissioners’ consultation process on the way to receiving the final report in October 2020.’
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