Productivity Commission report eleventh hour hope for mental health

16 November 2020
 
 
 

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has welcomed the Productivity Commission, Mental Health, Inquiry Report and cautioned that the report’s release has come not a moment too soon.

The long-awaited report clearly outlines key recommendations focused on building a more productive and effective mental health system better able to meet the requirements of, and more responsive to the needs of our communities, individuals, their families and carers.

RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan, said the report provides a strong starting point from which the country, governments and communities can work toward a strong, efficient and effective mental health system.

‘The time for change is upon us. With our mental health system under more strain than ever, and facing a post-COVID pandemic surge, we have reached a crucial turning point,’ explained Associate Professor Allan.

‘We are dealing with workforce shortages and maldistribution, accessibility issues, insufficient bed numbers, lack of prevention and early intervention frameworks, and the mental health disparities found between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

‘The report identifies the improvements in people’s quality of life, valued at $18 billion annually, with an added benefit of $1.3 billion in increased economic participation.

‘Investment in mental health needs to be properly considered and made, as it is clear that the benefits will far outweigh the cost to invest.

‘If we as a country, and our governments, are to be serious about a commitment to providing Australians with an efficient, accessible and world-class mental health system, now is the time to come through on that commitment.’

The RANZCP was pleased to see a number of recommendations outlined in the final report that aligned with recommendations that have been strongly advocated in the RANZCP’s response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry in Mental Health Draft Report earlier this year.

‘We are pleased to see the inclusion and strong recommendation from the Productivity Commission that the government make permanent all Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items that were introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic to make psychiatric services more accessible and available,’ added Associate Professor Allan.

‘The permanent continuation of telehealth, as an addition to face-to-face consultations beyond COVID-19, will provide a significant opportunity to enrich the future of Australia’s mental health service system, however we are concerned regarding the proposed 12 consultations per year limit as it will affect patient care.

‘Additionally, the inclusion of recommendations to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health is an encouraging sign to those living with or having experienced mental health, further supported by today’s release of the National Suicide Prevention Advisor’s Interim Advice Report.

‘A significant aspect of this stigma is persistent, widespread misunderstanding about present day psychiatry, modern mental health care and those who provide it.

‘People with mental illnesses, and their carers, also experience substantial stigma. This leads to decreased help seeking, isolation in the community, and discrimination. Furthermore, stigma has led to inadequate resourcing of mental health services.’ 

The RANZCP is disappointed to note that some key areas of mental health had been omitted, such as the mental health and wellbeing of older Australians.

‘It is disappointing, however, to see that there is a lack of recommendations relating specifically to the mental health of older Australians, within the report,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

‘Whilst we acknowledge a large part of the report relates to improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the mental health system, good mental health is essential to healthy ageing, and older people require the same full spectrum of mental health interventions as other people, from prevention to early intervention and clinical care.  

‘One of the key lessons we can take away from this report is the strong need for both state, territory and federal governments to work together, collaboratively, to navigate the way forward, with clearly established roles and responsibilities.

‘We look forward to working together with the states, territories and Federal governments in taking, what we hope to be, the first of many steps towards substantial improvements and build a more efficient and accessible mental health system’

The RANZCP is encouraged by initial readings of the Productivity Commission’s Final Report and is strongly supportive of a number of key recommendations for reform across the mental health sector.

For more information, see the RANZCP’s submission to the Productivity Commission

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 media@ranzcp.org.

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