Time for real action on mental and general health issues

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone attended the National Press Club to hear Health Minister Greg Hunt deliver his address, which centred mostly on mental health issues.

Dr Bartone later said the Minister had made some good announcements, but that the proof would be in the doing.

“It was great to see the announcements, especially around a childhood mental health strategy,” Dr Bartone said.

“And great to see the recommitment into ensuring a reduction in tobacco rates. It was nice to hear about other things like the obesity plan and prevention too.

“But I think that we really need to move along from announcements on strategy and let’s see the implementation pathways and let’s see the funding.

“We’ve had many years of consultations, frameworks, taskforces, submissions and everything else. But like I’ve said, just get on with it now and do it.”

Before attending the Press Club, Dr Bartone met at AMA House in Canberra with Professor Ian Hickie, Co-Director of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre; and Adjunct Associate Professor Kim Ryan, CEO of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses.

The three (all pictured here) discussed the importance of managing mental illness in the primary care setting in the first instance.

“Clearly, in dealing with access pathways in mental health care, there is a lot of focus of the missing middle,” Dr Bartone said.

“That’s important, because at the moment it is missing. But we can’t just solve one part of the puzzle. We need to remember that a significant proportion of GP consults deal with mental health issues. GPs are the first port of call for patients in a very high percentage of cases.

“There’s no doubt that the capability of general practice to manage this would be significantly improved by investing in a framework which incorporated practice mental health nurses to support GPs in delivering that care.

“Part of that is the coordination with those secondary centres – the hubs and the referral centres – that basically will fill the missing middle.”