A Caring Health System

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Archived from Australian Mental Health Party

When we connect to health care, it’s usually in a state of concern, discomfort, or distress. A well-designed health system would ideally respond in a sensitive way to people, adapting to reflect the needs of consumers. Right now, Australia needs a more caring approach to health care. There’s a multitude of different ways we might improve Australia’s health system based on person-centred principles. It’s not just about the way health professionals engage with people in the system, but rather, how we design the structure of services and the way those services connect together.

Each heading below is intended to give you a sense of what a change towards person-centred policy might look like in practical terms. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means. There’s certainly a lot of other topics we could have written about below. But we think these dot points illustrate some tangible ways we can start improving the quality of health care in Australia right now. Please click on the headings you’re interested in below and take a moment to reflect on what we have in mind. And after you’ve finished, email us to tell us what changes you’d like to see!

Better Hospital Care

  • Better supported transition from hospital back to community, including:
    • Connecting people to accommodation support if needed at discharge;
    • Dedicated support workers at all hospitals to bridge adjustment to community based care and link people to meaningful follow up care
    • Access to tailored suicide prevention programs following psychiatric hospital discharge, to address elevated risk of suicide in the first three months.
  • Ensuring that funding allocated to mental health care actually goes to mental health care
  • Better peri-natal support and mental health care when required
  • Commitment to further reductions to involuntary treatment, seclusion, and restraint
  • Development of better policies to assist families, loved ones, and carers around the appropriate care of people in psychiatric settings

Improve Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

  • We will take steps to increase the rate of bulk billing and close gap fees
  • We will ensure that public policies allow universal access to appropriate evidence-based care
  • We will acknowledge the proper scale of mental health issues and the mental health impacts of physical health issues
  • Our party will give people equitable and timely access to medicines needed for optimal health
  • A steadfast commitment to close the gap for Aboriginal health and mental health

Better Access to Psychological Care

  • More appointments for those who need them
  • We will cut red tape around diagnostic labeling and other onerous requirements at the point of referral.
  • We need a simpler process to make things easier for patients, GPs, and mental health care providers
  • Access to a wider range of evidence-based therapies
  • Fairer recognition of practitioner skills
  • Consistent Medicare support for consumers who receive the same type of service

NOTE: You can read more about that here.

Fairer Private Health Cover

  • Mandated standards for coverage of mental health care
  • Empowerment of consumer choice to select appropriate providers matching their needs and expansion to include all valid evidence-based supports
  • Address the discriminatory insurance restrictions relating to income protection, travel insurance, life insurance, and general restrictions relating to mental health
  • Greater consumer protections over decisions made by insurers in relation to mental health
  • More power for the private health insurance ombudsman to act on system-wide discrimination and mental health stigma within the private health insurance sector

More Safety and Security for Electronic Health Records

  • Our party is disappointed with the way MyHealth records have been rolled out. Specifically, there has been a long list of technical hiccups, security and confidentiality problems, and the illusion of choice. That is, the digital record is framed as being a personal choice, however Australians have been automatically signed up for the scheme and must actively engage with it in order to opt out
  • We believe any digital health record system must have better security, confidentiality, and individual control over the way one’s personal record is accessed or used

A Sensible Approach to Drugs and Alcohol

  • We are committed to a harm reduction framework at all levels of service provision
  • Our party recognises that drug addiction is both a health issue and a social issue
  • We will direct resources to helping people to reduce their drug-use, rather than putting the focus on punitive measures, which are the most expensive and least effective way to address these issues
  • We will make sure that drug rehabilitation services are readily accessible and approachable to members of the public who are ready to address their drug use
  • Our party will push for a national strategy to help those addicted to prescription medications

Connecting Research to Practice

  • Australian Government has gradually increased the funding for medical and mental health research over the years, but the implementation of scientific research is only as good as the policies set by our political leaders. Our health system is often designed based on the opinions of a selected group of experts or the views of dominant professional organisations. As caring and intelligent as health experts usually are, that way of designing policy tends to result in systems which serve the interests of health providers rather than patients. Australia needs to implement policies based on the best knowledge we have from research and consistent feedback we hear from people who access services. Our priority is to make sure that good research translates into good practice
  • Allocation of research funding at a scale which reflects the magnitude of the real-world issues we currently need to address
  • We encourage the development of better screening tools to identify suicide risks and the onset of mental health conditions across every stage of life
  • Our party is committed to invest in research to expand our knowledge and develop appropriate systems to help vulnerable populations with significantly higher rates of suicide, drug and alcohol problems, and mental health issues

Improved Primary Healthcare Networks (PHNs)

  • More stability and consistency of funding to ensure continuity of high-use/high-need programs
  • Developing a better standard for apportioning funding to regional areas than the current population-based system (factoring in distance, relative disconnection, and the regional expanse covered in each zoned area)
  • Revision of programs to ensure that basic levels of access are meeting the best standards of evidence-based care available (current systems ration sessions at very low levels)
  • We will address the double-handling of administration of overlapping programs, which drains funding for much needed service delivery
  • Our party would like to see dedicated roles at each PHN, who connect directly with individual health practitioners in the local community
  • We want to see much clearer communication of information provided to the public about which services are available from their local PHN and how they can be accessed if needed
  • We will ensure that the funding allocated to PHNs is not cashed-out or redirected from Medicare. That is, dedicated block funding should be specified for PHNs, not redirected from funding cuts to other good mental health programs in our community
  • Better communication and partnerships across PHN areas to help centres learn and grow from experiences in other locations.

Addressing Men’s Mental Health

  • Tailored programs for men in high risk groups (e.g., elevated suicide risk in 40s, community health)
  • Development and promotion of positive community involvement for men experiencing disconnection
  • Expansion of programs which directly address issues relating to male depression, anxiety, anger and violence
  • Ensuring that services for men in the community align with known principles of best practice

A Positive and Proactive Approach to Aboriginal Mental Health Care

  • Directly addressing the multiple and overlapping impacts of racism
  • Establish a national framework of accepted evidence-based programs across the spectrum of early intervention and prevention for suicide and mental health conditions
  • Commit to reaching agreement on how to screen early stages of mental health conditions and suicide risk
  • Funding allocation to demonstrate a measurable reduction in suicide and mental health risk factors in the communities in which they are delivered
  • Developing programs for Aboriginal people to build and maintain positive interpersonal relationships and assist to restore calm and re-connect
  • Acknowledgement that programs which restrict or control Aboriginal people and communities from the outside often make things worse, leading people to experience a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair
  • Empowerment and personal autonomy as the cornerstone of person-centred care

Healthier Communities in Regional, Rural, and Remote Australia

  • Increase the incentives for skilled health professionals to relocate to those communities who need them most
  • We will look at measures which make it easier for those mental health workers who already are living in rural, regional and remote parts of Australia to stay put, and really thrive in those communities. We need to retain knowledge and wisdom of local people and their connections
  • Implement measures that encourage local people in rural, regional, and remote places, who have an interest in becoming mental health care professionals to take that next step. If they need to be trained in our big cities, then we have to look at how we might bring them back home again
  • Our party believes the priority must be on connection and wherever possible making sure that connection is real, personal, and from one human being to another. Internet and app-based self-help are useful, but they are not for all situations or every person
  • We are against mandatory placement of health professionals in distant parts of Australia, because the forced nature of the interaction leads to a removed sense of connection to community. Real connection is personal, meaningful, and should be long-term, not just a temporary requirement