National Mental Health Workforce Strategy released

Wednesday, 11 October, 2023

National Mental Health Workforce Strategy released

The federal government, along with all state and territory governments, has released a 10-year National Mental Health Workforce Strategy to guide coordinated action over the next decade with an aim to ensure Australians get the mental health care they need where and when they need it.

With demand for mental health services outstripping supply and a workforce unevenly distributed across the country, the strategy sets out a clear plan to attract, train, maximise, support and retain a diverse workforce that can meet the current and future needs of all Australians.

This includes opportunities to grow the rural and remote workforce and increase the representation of First Nations people and other priority populations within the mental health workforce.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler said, “The strategy is a first step in the government’s long-term goal to ensure our mental health care system has the workforce in place to care for Australians needing mental health support.

“The quality of the mental health system relies on its workforce. Australians deserve a mental health care system where people can get compassionate help from highly skilled professionals.”

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) said it was pleased to see that the issues of mental health workforce shortages in rural and remote locations, and options to address the specific needs of communities to attract, retain, maximise, support and train a rural workforce are given due consideration in the strategy.

“We are particularly pleased to see the reference to the need for homegrown professionals as the strategy notes that people originating from rural and remote areas often have a preference to undertake training and employment in their own or comparable communities. The strategy rightly notes that there needs to be a focus on developing, growing and sustaining the regional, rural and remote mental health workforce through providing localised education, training and placement opportunities for students,” said the Alliance Chief Executive Susi Tegen.

“Funding support needs to be provided to local clinicians to take on students as well as support those who work long hours in their communities, as their contribution often goes unnoticed until they burn out and leave.

“We’re pleased that many of the Alliance’s recommendations to the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy Taskforce have been incorporated as it acknowledges that a universal workforce approach is not viable for the unique and varied challenges in rural and remote areas.

“The strategy includes an action item to incentivise the use of place-based approaches to training and professional development to help attract and retain workforce in rural and remote areas in the next 3 to 5 years. The Alliance believes place-based solutions need to be actioned now as rural communities cannot wait any longer. Place-based solutions are needed now to deliver primary health care including mental health care to our rural communities.

“We welcome the reference to wrap-around service delivery models that adopt a person-centred approach that includes their family and carers which have demonstrated the potential to improve health outcomes, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas.

“But we now need to see the resources and commitment by all levels of government to ensure the actions in the strategy become tangible responses to this area of critical need,” Tegen said.

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