Office of Mental Health Still Overdue as Acute Mental Health Services Lag

It’s a shame that the Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury has moved at a glacial pace to establish an Office of Mental Health when mental health patients are not getting the treatment they need, Shadow Health Minister Vicki Dunne said today.

According to the latest Productivity Commission report on government services in health, there are not enough acute mental health beds to meet growing demand. Similarly, staffing levels have also fallen behind demand.

In the past ten years, the number of patient days per 1,000 people increased by more than one-third while the number of full time staff per 100,000 people only increased by 16 per cent.

“This is well short of the national average. In 2015-16, we had 32.7 full-timers per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 54.6,” Mrs Dunne said.

“This is underscored by a lack of acute beds. In the past ten years, the beds per 100,000 people have fallen by 17.6 per cent.

“Under Minister Rattenbury, mental health patients clearly have limited access to treatment. That is not good enough.

“Constituents with mental health problems, particularly young adolescents, tell me they cannot get the kind of wrap-around treatment services they need and that mental health units are at or over capacity.

“Some of these people are forced to go interstate to get the treatment they need.

“The first task of the long-awaited, long-overdue Office of Mental Health, promised by Minister Rattenbury, should be to fix acute mental health bed numbers and staffing levels.

“For a Minister who insists mental health is his highest priority, it is remarkable that he has allowed peripheral issues to take precedence over the needs of those in our community who are at risk,” Mrs Dunne concluded.