World Mental Health Day: Consumer leaders key to mental health service planning

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Research from the University of Canberra and ACT Health highlights the value that consumer leaders can bring to mental health services planning—although this has historically been met with resistance or tokenism, says Australian Health Review (AHR) chief editor Professor Gary Day.

AHR is the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s peer-reviewed academic journal.

‘The authors advocate that there is a need for mental health service organisations to move on from “traditional” power imbalances between providers and consumers, where consumer involvement can be restricted to the less important decisions, or to feedback from consumers likely to support the status quo’, Professor Day said.

‘Ideally, while retaining their own rules, norms and beliefs, both parties should focus on good relationships, mutual trust and a “win-win” exchange in order to improve the service and contribute to each other’s wellbeing. The authors outline paths to achieving this, including education and training, involving consumer leaders in hiring decisions, and having consumer leaders sitting on Boards.’

Another article in the October 2017 issue of AHR describes and assesses the ‘Doorway’ program in Victoria for people with severe and persistent mental illness. Doorway is an integrated housing and recovery program. It differs from similar programs in that participants find and secure housing on the open rental market, with appropriate rental subsidy and brokerage support. Significant benefits to clients’ mental health were observed compared with other housing and recovery support programs, together with potential cost savings to government through reduced use and cost of health services.

The Australian Government’s Partners in Recovery (PIR) initiative is under the spotlight in an article from the University of Sydney. The program is designed to make the mental and social care sectors work in more coordinated ways to meet the needs of people with severe and complex mental health illness.

The data suggest that the program at two Western Sydney sites is mostly reaching the intended audience. The highest unmet needs (self-reported) were psychological distress, lack of daytime activities and company, poor physical health and lack of accommodation.

‘Another article relevant to mental health services is from Monash University, describing a new “Index of Access” for primary healthcare services’, Professor Day said.

‘This sophisticated tool measures access to services, particularly in rural and remote areas. This is very useful for health services and workforce planning, including mental health.’

Also relevant to workforce issues is a Sydney Nursing School article reporting on results from their survey of Privately Practising Nurse Practitioners (PPNPs) in Australia.

PPNPs can access subsidies from the Medical Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, but by law must have a collaborative arrangement with a medical practitioner or an entity that employs medical practitioners.

‘The arrangements brought many benefits, including learning, patient care, and support to PPNPs’, Professor Day said. ‘But only 19% of PPHNPs thought that collaborative arrangements needed to be a prerequisite to access the MBS and PBS, because collaboration with medical practitioners is intrinsic to nursing practice.

‘There were also reported differences in availability and willingness of medical practitioners to enter into such arrangements, and differences in interpretation of the arrangements. For example some medical practitioners saw the arrangement as one of supervision and legal responsibility for care, rather than as a reciprocal working relationship.’

Articles from the October 2017 AHR can be found here. Some are freely available through open access, while others need a subscription or can be purchased individually.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, Primary Health Networks, and community and primary healthcare services.

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