Local communities crying out for more action on mental health, not more reviews

Consumers need responsive community health services which embrace mental health services designed with consumers, not more reviews.

“The announcement of yet another review into how best to deliver mental health announced yesterday risks further delay to real, concerted action,” says the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells.

“In the past ten years there have been at least 32 federal and state statutory inquiries including the wide-ranging report by the National Mental Health Commission which in 2014 said local primary health networks were ‘the ideal opportunity to harness this infrastructure and better target mental health resources’.

“The Consumers Health Forum is a strong advocate of Primary Health Networks. The main game is to involve consumers in local health planning and decision making about service priorities is the right direction to take health reform because it will deliver a mix services that best meets consumer needs. 

“We welcome Minister Hunt’s commitment to mental health and its inclusion as a key part of a long term national health plan. Mental health services have been siloed for too long: they need to be well integrated with primary care and preventive health efforts if we are to achieve better coordinated care.

“We were surprised that a review of PHN’s role in mental health commissioning has been announced at this point in time to be conducted by a Primary Health Network Advisory Panel on Mental Health”.

“PHNs should be held to account for delivering evidence-based, high value mental health services. However, we believe that local clinicians and consumers - not a central committee - are best placed to work with PHNs to shape mental health plans and to ensure that mental health service arrangements are well integrated with primary care, community and state services,” Ms Wells said.

“Local consumers and clinicians are the ones with the deepest insights into the service landscape and the lived experience of local service systems.  This was recognised by the government’s own reviews including both the Horvarth Review of Medicare Locals and the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Services.

“We would urge the Panel to consider the strategies that are needed to build the capacity and authority of consumer and clinical councils to provide expert guidance and input to PHN needs assessments and decisions about mental health services. We want to see a strengthening not a diminution of these local governance arrangements.  That means bolstering the role of consumers as local ‘makers and shapers’ of health services.

“We would therefore encourage the review panel to consider the value of investing in developing consumer leaders so they are equipped to participate effectively in PHN service commissioning.  This was a recommendation of a Consumer and Carer Leadership Colloquium hosted by CHF this week in collaboration with Mental Health Australia and the National Rural Health Alliance.

“Consumer involvement in their health and care results in better decisions, better health and health outcomes, and more efficient and effective use of resources,” Ms Wells said.



Media contact

Mark Metherell

T:  02 6273 5444 
M: 0429 111 986