Mental health challenges must be met, but new panel must be advisory only

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Today’s announcement by the Minister for Health of a new Mental Health Advisory Panel may assist in the progress of mental health reforms, but its proposed review functions are premature, says the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

‘While we commend the Australian Government for its commitment to improving mental health services, we think the proposed reviews of governance and Primary Health Network commissioning of mental health services are premature and an unnecessary distraction’, said AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

‘However, we welcome more concerted efforts towards providing a better mental health system for Australia as a whole. This should include implementing the recommendations of the 5th National Mental Health Plan, and removing unnecessary obstacles to integrated care for people with mental health problems, as well as minimising red tape and unnecessary regulation.’

‘There is a very broad range of interests and activities across the mental health sector, with varying levels of evidence and support underpinning them. Ensuring a balanced, independent, integrated approach that drives better mental health outcomes must be given more weight than the interests of services seeking to maintain their current roles in the system.

‘The Minister’s meeting tomorrow with his state and territory counterparts would be the ideal opportunity to obtain their commitment to working towards integrated mental health care across acute, primary and community health services’, Ms Verhoeven said.

‘The work associated with the mental health reforms being rolled out by the Primary Health Networks has been substantial.

‘At the Coalition Government's direction, the 31 Networks have conducted community needs assessments, engaged with clinicians and the community regarding appropriate and effective services for people experiencing mental illness, and are now commissioning suitable services in accordance with government-mandated processes.

‘These services must be given the chance to work before they are reviewed’.

‘And if reviews do go ahead, they should be independently-led, to ensure transparency and robust debate’, Ms Verhoeven said.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, Primary Health Networks, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community.

For more information on AHHA, visit


Media enquiries: Ms Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, 0403 282 501