Cautious welcome to new mental health governance structure | AMA (WA)

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Mental health governance

Cautious welcome to new mental health governance structure

Thursday August 31, 2023

The AMA (WA) welcomes the WA Government’s changes to mental health governance in response to the Independent Review of WA Health System Governance but says the shuffling of deck chairs falls short of a having a single entity responsible for overseeing mental health services in the state, as the AMA (WA) called for in its submission to the Review.

Positive changes include having senior mental health executive positions within each Health Service Provider to allow better coordination of physical and mental health care, and the opportunity for clinically informed governance through the Clinical Advisory Group.

However, the setting of KPIs and outcomes reporting needs to be clear, transparent and regular to be able to assess if the new governance structure is genuinely improving the system, with mental health patients currently suffering from unnecessarily long wait times to clinics, crisis care and outreach services, and an unacceptable number of mental health consumers spending more than 24 hours in WA emergency departments, up 5.5 per cent in July 2023 compared to July 2022.

AMA (WA) President Dr Michael Page said he was optimistic the new governance model would also mean mental health funding is more streamlined and better targeted, including funding for primary care.

“We’d like to see more funding for the psychiatry workforce and training pipeline, and greater research and professional development opportunities for psychiatrists” he said.

“We’d also like to see greater investment to ensure patients who most need mental health services get help earlier, and we’d like to see more support and investment for primary care.

“A lot of mental health care is being done in GP practices, and they play a significant role in managing patients who cannot access acute care.

“GPs are well placed to take on a greater, shared-care role in mental health management, including ADHD assessment and management.

The AMA (WA) urged the WA Government to consider psychiatrists and GPs for key roles under the new structure, including the Clinical Advisory Group.

“We encourage the government to work with representative organisations like the AMA (WA), RANZCP and other medical colleges to ensure expert input is given to achieve the appropriate outcomes,” Dr Page said.

In its submission to the Review, the AMA (WA) identified that Western Australia’s mental health system was not delivering adequate, coordinated, and timely mental health care, with failure to address the corporate governance system of mental health the reason that past reviews related to clinical governance had failed to be effective.

The AMA (WA)’s submission to the Independent Review of WA Health System Governance is available at https://www.amawa.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Independent-Governance-Review-20052022.pdf