Productivity Commission review into mental health: ensuring the consumer focus

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) welcomes the announcement of a Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health by Minister for Health Greg Hunt and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and urges the Government to work with the Productivity Commission to appoint a Consumer Commissioner to assist to guide the inquiry.

“A Consumer Commissioner is not only good governance in an era where the trend in health and human service delivery is towards greater accountability and people-centred care, but sends a powerful signal that the fundamental question that needs to be kept front and centre by the review is the measures and associated investments that are going to make a difference to people’s lives,” CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells said.

“CHF has previously supported many of the principles and recommendations contained in the Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities Report of the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) following its 2014 review.

“We supported those recommendations that emphasised the need to adopt person-centred design principles for a better integrated mental health system and shifting funding to more efficient and effective ‘upstream’ services and supports such as early intervention, primary care-based and recovery services.  

“It makes sense for the Terms of Reference to require the Productivity Commission to take these into account and add to the expert recommendations by the NHMC. It is in the best interests of moving the agenda forward towards real benefits and change to not start from scratch.

“CHF’s membership is broad and includes all the major disease specific groups who repeatedly tell us that mental and physical health comorbidity is the double jeopardy of our health system. Poor physical health among those with severe and persistent mental health problems can’t be overlooked. We need prevention, early intervention, primary and transitional care arrangements that are accessible, affordable and contemporary to stop these people falling through the cracks and enabling them to live productive professional and private lives,” Ms Wells said.  

CHF recently hosted our inaugural Youth Health Forum which involved around 50 young health consumer advocates from around the country to discuss and debate the health issues that matter most to them. Mental health and the need for more responsive services was the number one issue raised by these young leaders.         

If there is one area where the reform imperative is greatest, it is the Minister’s ‘third wave’ of reform where there is opportunity to bring a suite of measures under the banner of an integrated primary care system that, combined with other specific mental health programs, can dramatically  improve the overall service landscape for people with mental health problems, including those with pressing physical health problems and social care needs.  

Our recent Special Policy Report Snakes and Ladders: The Journey to Primary Care Integration made a number of implementable and practical recommendations on this front and we’ll be drawing on that as we make our contribution to the Inquiry.    

CHF looks forward to making an active contribution to the inquiry in consultation with our members and our Youth Health Forum.




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Mark Metherell
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