The ANMF (Vic Branch) has called on the Victorian Government to safeguard the workplace health and safety rights of nurses in Victoria’s new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act.
In our recent submission to the Department of Health’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Act update and engagement paper, the Branch welcomed the proposed legislation’s focus on the rights of consumers, families, carers and supporters.
ANMF told the department the new legislation must also recognise the right of our members to be safe at work, protected under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
The Branch recommended a range of measures, including:
- embedding an occupational health and safety (OHS) committee into the new Act to oversee and monitor OHS compliance
- completing the rollout of Safewards
- enforcing the statewide implementation of our 10-point plan to reduce occupational violence and aggression across all adult mental health services including Forensicare
- standardising all occupational violence and aggression and de-escalation training offered to staff working in mental health units.
The update and engagement paper, released in June this year, sought input on the department’s proposals for the following key areas:
- objectives and principles of the new Act
- non-legal advocacy
- supported decision making
- information collection, use and sharing
- reducing the use and the negative impacts of compulsory assessment and treatment
- reducing the use and the negative impacts of seclusion and restraint and regulation of chemical restraint
- governance and oversight.
Our submission addressed each of these key areas and made 20 recommendations. These recommendations were based on:
- our July 2019 submission to the Royal Commission on the Victorian Mental Health System
- input from our Mental Health Royal Commission Working Group
- input from members who attended our Mental Health and Wellbeing Act Workshops in July 2021
- information gathered in a July 2021 pulse survey of members on the role of nurse practitioners in authorising temporary treatment orders.
A key concern addressed in our submission was the need to prepare the service system to meet the requirements of the new Act. Safe staffing levels will be crucial.
The new Act is set to expand the remit of the Mental Health Complaints Commissioner to include all Victorian Government funded providers to deliver mental health and wellbeing treatment, care, and support via the proposed Mental Health Commission. It will also expand the jurisdiction of the Chief Psychiatrist to include correctional settings.
To ensure members in these settings are resourced to provide the level of treatment, care and support required and expected by consumers, families, carers and supporters, our submission called on the Victorian Government to fulfil its 2018 election promise to legislate nurse staffing profiles in mental health units and relevant funding agreements so that:
- all public services included in this remit are legally required to meet safe staffing levels
- all non-government services included in this remit are required to meet the same safe staffing levels as part of their funding agreements.
The Branch also called for more consultation on a range of issues, including the department’s proposal that nurse practitioners could authorise temporary treatment orders.