by ACN Policy Team
ACN is committed to representing the knowledge and expertise of our Members in policy development throughout the Australian health and aged care system. In this series we want to share what ACN is doing in the policy space with our Members and followers and how your contributions shape our messages to the many consultations that we get involved in.
In May 2018, ACN provided a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee on the Accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia.
ACN’s overarching message was that mental health services in rural and remote areas face significant challenges when compared to major cities and that people from rural and remote areas are at greater risk of hardship, social-isolation, self-harm and suicide. ACN noted the impact of drug and alcohol use, poorer education, and climate related risks must not be understated in these regions.
Amongst a broad range of issues, ACN emphasised that the nurse workforce is significantly underutilised. ACN noted that funding barriers currently prevent mental health nurses from delivering services in rural and remote Australia, particularly with the removal of state incentives, and limited access to MBS items and technology. ACN offered support for the use of technology (e.g. telehealth, web-based and phone-based support) in rural and remote areas, however stressed that technology must complement face-to-face mental health service delivery and not be used to fill workforce shortage gaps.
Other major challenges ACN highlighted in the submission included lower numbers of mental health care providers, demanding workloads, increasing rates of provider burnout and lack of culturally appropriate and responsive services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. A generalist approach to nursing care in these regions is also contributing to reduced quality of care, service effectiveness and expertise available in mental health.
ACN provided several suggestions and practical solutions to address the issues, including to:
- implement mandatory culturally responsive training to support mental health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- develop and grow the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workforce
- build the mental health workforce in rural and remote Australia through relocation with funding scholarships
- remodel reimbursement schemes to support rural and remote loading
- up-skill the existing nursing workforce in rural and remote Australia to remain and work within their local region
- ensure competency in mental health education is consistent with current evidence based training.
For more detail on ACN’s response, please click here.
If you would like more information, please contact the ACN Policy Team on firstname.lastname@example.org