Victoria’s public health sector welcomes Royal Commission’s call for fundamental redesign of mental health system

March 2, 2021

Victoria’s public health peak body, the Victorian Healthcare Association, welcomes the recommendations of the final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System that call for fundamental system redesign, and further notes the Premier’s commitment to implement all of the report’s recommendations.

The VHA specifically recognises that many of the 65 recommendations, as well as the nine from the interim report, focus on workforce, rural and regional access, governance, prevention and early intervention, which are key areas identified by the sector as fundamental to reform, and shared by the VHA over the past two years.

VHA Chief Executive Tom Symondson, who attended the historic joint sitting of Parliament, says the sector has long called for system transformation.

‘The final report highlights the ‘deep cracks’ that exist in the system and the VHA is pleased that many of our sector’s recommendations and ideas are reflected in the final report,’ Mr Symondson said.

‘It’s impossible to overstate the urgency with which Government, the health sector and relevant stakeholders must act to implement these reforms.’

The VHA’s joint submission to the Royal Commission, with Mental Health Victoria (MHV), is reflected in the final report with multiple references to prevention, workforce and the need for appropriate funding. These include recognition of our calls for ‘the systematic incorporation of learning into everyday practice’ and the need to respond to different population groups.

Key recommendations related to the health sector include:

  • The creation of a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act to underpin an integrated statewide mental health system
  • The implementation of a new whole-of-system rehabilitation pathway, which includes two new bed-based rehabilitation models of care
  • The establishment of a new Statewide Trauma Service
  • The development, funding and implementation of modern infrastructure for ICT systems, including a new statewide electronic Mental Health and Wellbeing Record
  • The creation of a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission to monitor progress and hold the Victorian Government to account
  • Additional resourcing and a workforce incentive scheme for mental health services in rural and regional areas

However, the VHA has some concerns about the proposals to use activity-based funding for bed-based and community-based mental health and wellbeing services and would prefer a more person-centred and responsive funding approach.

‘Whilst we find activity-based funding works well where one person’s health needs are like the next person’s, where mental health is concerned every individual’s experience is entirely different and the funding model needs to recognise this and enable people to receive the care and support that they require rather than be guided by a pricing model,’ Mr Symondson reflected.

The final report marks a turning point in the state’s design and delivery of reforms to support the mental health of Victorians. The testimonies of those with lived experience and particularly those from carers and family members of people who were failed by the mental health system in the hour of their greatest need underscore the need for urgent reform.

‘Our sector is committed to integrating lived experience into the system. The personal stories highlighted at today’s event, including those shared by Amelia and Alistair, show us just how important an opportunity this Royal Commission is to fix the wrongs of the past and to give our community hope for the future,’ Mr Symondson said.

‘The Royal Commission has recognised the role of peak bodies in supporting implementation of these proposals, echoing the VHA and MHV’s joint-paper on reform implementation that was released earlier this year. Partnerships such as this are crucial to supporting services as they implement the recommendations.’

Building on our successful series of Mental Health Sector Forums, which brought together providers from all parts of the system for the first time, the VHA will continue to work with the sector to support implementation of the 65 final recommendations identified through the Royal Commission.

‘The VHA and the public health sector are committed to collaborating with the Victorian Government to ensure the effective implementation of the Royal Commission’s vision. Victorians should expect nothing less,’ Mr Symondson said.

Media enquiries: please contact Jack Walden via jack.walden@vha.org.au or 0428 300 090 to arrange an interview.