Submission calls for urgent fixes to mental health system

13 March 2020

The NSW Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has called for improved access, capacity and fairness in New South Wales’ mental health system.

In their 2020 Pre-Budget Submission ‘Let’s fix something’, the NSW Branch has outlined a number of areas in the state’s mental health system that need urgent fixing through targeted small investments to key aspects of the system.

Chair of the NSW Branch, Dr Angelo Virgona explained that the submission asks for modest investment in areas that will make a big difference to people who need mental health care and to people providing this care.

‘Investing in projects that will attract and keep psychiatrists in rural communities, where specialised care is so desperately needed, makes perfect sense in this current climate and the benefits will be long-lasting’, said Dr Virgona.

‘Our mental health care system is very much at a crossroads and we’re all hoping the Productivity Commission’s work will map a coherent direction for mental healthcare in this country.

‘We’ve got a system that’s copping it from all angles at the moment; drought, bushfires and now COVID-19 are putting vulnerable people and communities to the test and we need a system that can respond quickly when a crisis hits.’

For many people with a mental health condition the Mental Health Access Line (MHAL) is first entry point into the NSW mental healthcare system, however research shows that this service is simply not doing what it is meant to be doing.

‘It is creating confusion for consumers, carers, GPs, psychiatrists and other mental healthcare workers, and it’s putting lives at risk as a result’, explained Dr Virgona.

‘Now’s the time to fix this service. These are times of more frequent and challenging crises, and the effective access points that properly functioning MHAL’s deliver, are a critical component of a responsive mental health system.

‘Pinpointing gaps in mental health services for children and adolescents means we’ll be then able to define clearer pathways to care, be better able to link services to kids and their families; a ‘joined-up’ approach is needed for this group if we’re to ensure they get the best care and prevent them spiralling.’

‘Finally, we need to have a real conversation about what’s going on in our prisons. Many inmates with severe mental illness are languishing in their cells because they can’t get access to the kind of care that would be available to them if they were in the community.

‘If we’re serious about reducing recidivism, as the Premier has prioritised, then we need to give these people the best chance possible to make it on the outside by giving them access to services while they’re in custody. It’s also the right thing to do.’

We’re calling on our members to contact their local MPs about the importance of the recommendations detailed in our Submission, with a clear message that our mental health system needs urgent fixing.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email