On Tuesday night I attend the Health Budget lock-up, where we in the health sector are normally provided with more detail around the health Budget measures that are about to be announced. Unfortunately, this year we received very little information - indeed not more than what was already in the Media.
Of course, I was very keen to hear about the ongoing funding for the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program (the MHNIP). There was no specific announcement in relation to the MHNIP on the night; however I have now received a letter from the Department of Health, indicating that the MHNIP will have a further 12 month funding extension, which is what we were expecting, I suppose, in light of the funding announcements for other mental health programs.
This was the third year in a row that we had to wait to find out about funding, which is unacceptable for everyone. At least this year everyone is in the same boat and it's not just us.
We have some very positive reports that describe the wonderful work of the mental health nurses and the flexibility of the Program. I will now continue to champion the need for growth and the redesign of aspects of the MHNIP, and the need for nurses to be included in the Government's Expert Reference Group for the review of the National Mental Health Commission's report and the Primary Care Review.
My advice from the Department of Health is that the administration arrangements for the MHNIP for the 2015-2016 financial years will be the same as those for 2014-2015. The Department of Human Services will write to all organisations shortly to advise people of the arrangements. As before, session allocation will be based on activity, SO IF YOU HAVE ANY OUTSTANDING CLAIMS LODGE THEM ASAP. This will ensure the current allocation can be reallocated, and if a review is requested it will support your claim. Those of you working in the program will know the procedure.
There were other announcements in the Budget which may be of more interest to us:
- $2.4 billion is to be invested in improving primary health care and mental health outcomes.
- $10.1 billion is to be spent on medicines this year, and
- hospital funding will increase in 2015-2016 to $16.4 billion.
We have no detail around to what any of this funding is directly allocated, but there was mention of the need to more effectively and efficiently manage chronic disease.
There will be ongoing funding for E-health, and the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Care Record will be re-named to My Health Record.
There was an announcement that $500 million over the forward estimates (we don't know to what period on time this refers) will be withdrawn from the flexible funds programs, which are the:
- Chronic Disease Prevention and Service Improvement Fund
- Communicable Disease Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund
- Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund
- Substance Misuse Service Delivery Grants Fund
- Health Social Surveys Fund
- Single Point of Contact for Health Information, Advice and Counselling Fund
- Regionally Tailored Primary Care Initiatives through Medicare Locals Fund
- Practice Incentives for General Practices Fund
- Rural Health Outreach Fund
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Chronic Disease Fund
- Health System Capacity Development Fund
- Health Surveillance Fund
- Quality Use of Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Pathology Fund
- Health Workforce Fund
- Indemnity Insurance Fund and
- the Health Protection Fund.
Another announcement that will be of interest to the nursing workforce is the streamlining of workforce scholarships. There are scholarship programs for nursing and midwifery, allied health and medicine. Currently there are a number of scholarship schemes that are administered by different organisations, and the Government may be looking at efficiencies in administration. This has been tried before, unsuccessfully. For more information on this, click here.
In relation to College business, we keep going well with the C4N project, working with the other Colleges to develop a credentialing framework and an online application system. I am really keen to see how we can move forward with putting our credentialing system online, making things easier for everyone involved.
The Accreditation of Post Graduate Mental Health Nursing Courses project is getting close to being finalised, and we are about to undertake our second pilot site visit. This is such an exciting opportunity to promote standardisation and quality in post graduate mental health education.
I am looking forward to attending the Primary Health Care Nurses Conference this weekend on the Gold Coast, and I am particularly happy that they have invited Associate Professor Mary Moller to speak. Some of you may remember Mary from one of our early Primary Mental Health Care Conferences, so I will be keen to find out what's happening for psychiatric nurses in the US. Mary's presentation is entitled Every Nurse is a Mental Health Nurse: You Just Didn't Know It! The College has a booth there, so hopefully we can promote the need for greater mental health literacy for all nurses.
There will, of course, be a lot of noise around the Budget and now there is of speculation of an early election.
We will endeavour to get as much information as possible, and to keep you up to date as best we can.
CEO, Australian College of Mental Health Nurses