More beds without ratios in mental health
NSW Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies used her annual conference address to restate the government’s rejection of ratios and its focus on community-based mental health.
The NSW government continues to reject ratios as a way forward for mental health as it shifts its focus further into a community-based system called ‘Living Well’.
At our annual conference, NSW Minister for Mental Health, Tanya Davies, outlined details of the government’s ongoing Living Well plan and ruled out supporting ratios in hospital-based mental health services to focus on “prevention” at the community level.
“In terms of your ratios, I know that is a project that your Association has been running on and pushing,” she said.
“Again, the NSW Government believes that the current system in terms of nursing unit patient hours is the appropriate, more nimble and more flexible way to enable appropriate response to community needs and to hospital needs.
“The focus needs to be on sustaining people with a mental illness to live well in their community,” she said.
“As a government we need to respond to that by ensuring that appropriate support services are in place – accommodation, support services, connected groups such as clubhouses. Places where people with mental illness can go and feel that they’re welcomed, like a family-type network.”
A focus on community health
The minister said the NSW government is providing $1.9 billion in mental health funding in this year’s budget with an additional $20 million to help support the Living Well program, which runs from 2014–2024.
“It is about transferring the focus, the attention, the services and the programs to a community-based mental health system, while ensuring that the acute hospital-based mental health services are still appropriate and necessary for that community. The focus is – it has to be – on prevention.”
The minister believes that over time, efforts to enhance supports in the community will reduce the incidence, frequency, and length of hospitalisations for many mental health consumers, which directly leads to an enhanced quality of life for the consumer and greatly assists those working in a hospital system.
Lack of beds for mental health patients will also be assessed as the minister explained that the state budget contains a large component for “planning works for infrastructure delivery in mental health”.
“A part of that will be looking at the needs within LHDs across NSW growing populations as to what additional beds we need to deliver in our communities, but not just in the acute setting, it’s actually stepping down all the way back into the community,” she said.
“Because we know that there is a gap in the system for sufficient community-based step-down accommodation facilities, and that can contribute to people not being able to be released out of hospital settings.
So there is comprehensive work that’s being done in that space.”
Under the recently released state budget, the current spending in health over the next 12 months will be $21.7 billion, up by $1 billion from last year, she said.
In reply to the minister’s presentation, NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes restated the Association’s clear position on staffing in mental health as in all parts of the public health system.
“We do hope that the government wakes up one day and says: ‘Ratios save lives’,” he said.