The break-neck pace of mental health system reform in Victoria is a reason for hope that we are close to a revolution in treatment, care and support.
The Andrews Government released the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental health System on 2 March 2021. It promised to implement all 65 recommendations, plus a further nine recommendations from the interim report.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) Assistant Secretary Madeleine Harradence said ‘The Andrews Government’s sense of urgency implementing these reforms over the past 12 months really does give nurses, midwives and carers a real reason to hope that our mental health system will be resourced appropriately.
‘ANMF has never been busier and we’re involved in consultations, submissions and planning and there is every reason to hope that our new system will deliver treatment, care and support that is preventative, recovery-oriented and closer to home.’
ANMF established a working group of mental health nurses in May 2021. This group regularly discusses issues arising from the recommendations which then informs the union’s advocacy, representation on committees and working parties.
The working group assisted with the ANMF’s submission in August last year in relation to re-writing the mental health legislation which will underpin the reforms.
‘We continue to advocate that the nursing workforce is at the heart of these reforms because they can provide holistic care and ensure mental health is viewed just as importantly as physical health,’ Ms Harradence said.
‘And we know from our experiences with the Safe Patient Care Act, that ratios or mandated, minimum staffing levels are critical to recruit and retain a sustainable nursing workforce that can provide the therapeutic care envisioned by the royal commission. We look forward to working with the Andrews Government to see this election commitment through to its finalisation,’ she said.
The government’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Strategy 2021-24 released in December 2021 sets out the strategic plan to deliver the workforce needed to realise the royal commission’s vision including additional positions and postgraduate scholarships. This investment in additional nurses is critical with new beds coming online from the interim report which will require well qualified and experienced nurses.
The strategy also highlights that safety and wellbeing of the workforce is a requirement and enabler of high-quality and safe practice, including the establishment of the Mental Health Workforce Safety and Wellbeing Committee as per recommendation 59 of the report.
‘Nurses will be able to use all of their skills and education to deliver care focused on a person’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs,’ Ms Harradence said.
‘The royal commission recognised that the system only had capacity for people in crisis, the workforce development underway will fundamentally change the system and the culture and give nurses the capacity and opportunity to provide the holistic care Victorians need and deserve.’