More mental health nurses needed

THE RACGP has backed calls for more funding for community mental health nurses after a review found they had strong GP support, were effective and saved money.

In last year’s budget, the government closed the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program (MHNIP) to new participants pending a review, prompting concerns the decision would cause a shortage of mental health nurses in crucial areas – including in parts of Victoria affected by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires where many had been employed.

But the health department evaluation, quietly released on Christmas Eve, said “patients being supported under MHNIP are benefiting from improved levels of care in the form of greater continuity of care, greater follow-up, timely access to support, and increased compliance with treatment plans”.

RACGP president Dr Liz Marles said the report supported calls to uncap funding for the program, which she said “empowers [GPs] to do more