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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Rural mental health deserves better

Shadow Mental Health Minister Senator Jan McLucas and Labor Rural and Regional Health Spokesperson Stephen Jones share concerns about mental health services in the bush.

OPINION: MOUNT Isa is a sprawling mining town of some 22,000 people in remote, outback Queensland with a large fly-in fly-out workforce, low levels of schooling and a reputation for hard work. Access to many of the primary mental health care and community mental health care services is complicated and poorly integrated. Resources are stretched.

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Western NSW Medicare Local named network’s lead agency

THE federal government has selected a consortium as the “preferred potential operator” of the new Western NSW Primary Health Network (PHN).

Western NSW Medicare Local (WML) is the lead agency in the consortium.

WML chief executive officer Jenny Beange has told of its “exclusive” talks with the Department of Health.

“We will work with all partner organisations to ensure rapid establishment of the PHN and a smooth transition of services from Medicare Locals,” she said.

See more at the following link:

Friday, 17 April 2015

Rural mental health response slammed

MENTAL health experts are dismayed by the federal government's long-awaited response to a National Mental Health Commission report that paints a "disturbing picture" of failures of care and support for ordinary Australians living with mental illness.  Report co-author and psychiatrist Ian Hickie on Thursday called for States that cut funding to mental health to be "named and shamed" and layers of health bureaucracy to be slashed, with the government to fund local health authorities directly and bypass State and federal authorities. Instead, the government promised a revived "national approach" and new expert working group and a number of panels to deal with the report, which Health Minister Sussan Ley acknowledged painted a "disturbing picture" of mental health care across the country.  "The review shows that fragmentation in the system is seeing far too many people still slipping through the cracks," she said. "We cannot continue to place band-aids on the mental health system and expect it to heal itself".

Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services

The Commonwealth Government tasked the National Mental Health Commission with conducting a national review of mental health programmes and services. The focus of the review was on assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of programmes and services in supporting individuals experiencing mental ill-health and their families and other support people to lead a contributing life and to engage productively in the community. 

The  review has now been released. The Review provides 25 recommendations across nine strategic directions which guide a detailed implementation framework of activity over the next decade. Taken together, they form a strong, achievable and practical plan to reform Australia's mental health system.


The Review is framed on the basis of making changes within existing resources, as specified by the Terms of Reference provided to the Commission by the Commonwealth Government.



The several supporting reports include several specific to rural and Indigenous health.


  •       Advice and recommendations: Specific challenges for regional, rural and remote Australia, University of Newcastle

  • Tuesday, 14 April 2015

    Far west "under-serviced" for drug support services: rehab operator

    A drug rehabilitation provider is urging the Federal Government to create more treatment facilities in the state's west as part of a push to address ice addiction.
    Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says the new national taskforce on ice, announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week, will prioritise rural and regional Australia.

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    New Primary Health Networks to deliver better local care

    Australian patients are set to receive better access to frontline health services in their local area as part of the Abbott Government’s plans to improve the health of the nation, with the country’s new Primary Health Network (PHN) on track to begin rolling out from July 1.

    Minister for Health Sussan Ley today announced the successful applicants to run PHNs across the country following a thorough tender process run at arm’s length by the Department of Health.

    PHNs will replace Labor’s flawed Medicare Local system of 61 fragmented regions, which were found by an independent review to: deliver inconsistent health services; administration expenditure of up to 40 per cent of all costs; and lack transparency, with examples of taxpayers funds used to pay for staff parking tickets and gifts.

    See more at:

    Friday, 10 April 2015

    Ice Taskforce missing the point: Lynn Field

    She knows children as young as 14 who are using drugs and it is those youth Nguumambiny Indigenous Corporation manager Lynn Field said would not be helped by the new ice taskforce.

    The National Ice Taskforce was announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday. It will examine current efforts to address the issue before preparing an interim report which will be presented to the Prime Minister in June.

    Ms Field said the taskforce was only addressing part of the problem. "It'll have an impact but it'll only be a criminal-based one. You'll still have kids running around selling drugs," she said.

    See more from this article below:

    Health report not big news in rural Aust

    ONE of the largest studies into adult use of mental health services in Australia has revealed that those individuals who need them most - including those living in rural and remote areas - are missing out.  The Monash University study looked at 25 million Medicare-supported mental health services provided between 2007 and 2011.  It found people who lived in disadvantaged, rural and remote areas were more likely to miss out on health and it highlighted the top fifth of Australian society had about three times better access to psychological services than the bottom fifth.

    See link below for more details:

    Advance care planning in palliative care

    Two open access articles in the latest issue of Australian Health Review (Volume 39, no.2, 2015) have addressed advance care planning.

    Advance care planning in palliative care: a national survey of health professionals and service managers by Marcus Sellars, William Silvester, Malcolm Masso and Claire E. Johnson, aimed to identify the attitudes, knowledge and practices regarding ACP in palliative care by means of a survey. The results demonstrated that there "is a need to improve systems to support ACP and to understand circumstances in which ACP wishes are not followed."

    Palliative care health professionals' experiences of caring for patients with advance care directives by Claire E. Johnson, Rachel Singer, Malcolm Masso, Marcus Sellars and William Silvester, further examined this topic by another open survey. Results here indicated that advance care planning benefits health professionals, patients and their family. "To maximise these benefits, ACDs need to be clear, comprehensive, medically relevant and transportable documents."

    Social and cultural determinants of mental health

    The social and cultural determinants of mental health: Collective responsibilities, individualism, austerity and entitlements consists of 5 essays from the Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay Competition. They look at mental health from various perspectives.

    The winning essay was written by El Gibbs and is titled, "A place to call home: housing security and mental health". Runners up were Malcolm Forbes, a medical registrar and researcher; medical writer Olivia Hibbitt; poet Sandy Jeffs and sociologist Margaret Leggatt; and Stephen Wright, a writer and counsellor.

    The compilation was recently published by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, and is available freely online.

    Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010 (AIHW)

    Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010 is the second report in the Australian Burden of Disease Study series. It provides estimates of fatal burden for 2010 for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population as well as estimates of the gap in fatal burden between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

    Injuries and cardiovascular diseases contributed the most fatal burden for Indigenous Australians (22% and 21% respectively), followed by cancer (17%).

    Subsequent reports in this series will provide estimates of the non-fatal burden and the contribution of various risk factors to disease burden in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

    Media release

    Full report

    Thursday, 26 March 2015

    Healthy Communities: Frequent GP attenders and their use of health services in 2012–13

    More than one-third of Australians (35.3%) went to a GP six or more times in 2012–13, and those who went most often tended to be older and less wealthy, were more likely to have several long-term health conditions and were more likely to see several different GPs.

    The findings, by the National Health Performance Authority, provide the most detailed picture yet available about Australia's most frequent users of GP services. The report, Healthy Communities: Frequent GP attenders and their use of health services in 2012–13, shows that 1 in 8 Australians (12.5%) saw a GP at least 12 times in 2012–13, accounting for 41% of the $16 billion Medicare paid in out-of-hospital benefits.

    Among very high GP attenders (20+ visits), three-quarters (75%) were aged 45 or above, and 57% were aged 60 or above. In contrast, 45% of frequent GP attenders (12-19 visits) a18% of occasional attenders (4-5 visits) were aged 60 or above. Very high GP attenders were almost twice as likely as low attenders (1-3 visits) to have lived in areas of low socioeconomic status (29% compared to 16%)

    Among very high attenders (20+ visits), more than one-third (36%) reported having three or more long-term health conditions, compared to 29% of frequent attenders (12-19 visits). The figure for all Australians was just 7%. Very high and frequent GP attenders (12+ visits) accounted for about 60% of the people who reported being admitted to hospital four or more times in that year. Just over 40% of very high attenders (20+ visits) and 30% of frequent attenders (12-19 visits) reported visiting an emergency department, compared to 10% of low attenders (1-3 visits).

    Some local areas have markedly higher concentrations of very high and frequent users than other areas. Across higher-income inner-city areas, the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest population rate of people in these two groups (7.1%), compared to 14.5% in Inner West Sydney. Similarly, across lower-income regional areas, the range was from 8.3% (New England, NSW and South West WA) to 15.3% (Wide Bay, Qld).


    Media Release

    Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease-Australian facts: risk factors (AIHW)

    Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease-Australian facts: risk factors is one of a series of 5 reports by the National Centre for Monitoring Vascular Diseases at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that describe the combined burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD).

    This report on risk factors presents the latest statistics on the behaviours and characteristics that increase the likelihood of a person developing these chronic diseases. It also describes risk factors among people who already have CVD, diabetes or CKD. It examines age and sex characteristics and variations across population groups, including by geographical location and socioeconomic disadvantage.

    Media release

    Full report.

    Friday, 20 March 2015

    Admitted patient care 2013-14: Australian hospital statistics AIHW)

    Admitted patient care 2013-14: Australian hospital statistics presents a detailed overview of admitted patient activity in Australia's public and private hospitals. In 2013-14, there were about 9.7 million separations from hospitals, including:

    - 5.5 million same-day acute care separations
    - 3.8 million overnight acute care separations
    - about 460,000 subacute and non-acute care separations.

    'While the majority of hospital admissions in Australia in 2013-14 were to public hospitals, the number of admissions to private hospitals is increasing at a faster rate,' said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves. 'Between 2009-10 and 2013-14, the number of admissions increased by 3% on average each year for public hospitals and 3.6% for private hospitals.'

    View the Media release and download the Full Report.

    Watering the garden of family wellbeing

    Family Wellbeing is an effective social and emotional well being program originally developed and delivered by and for Aboriginal people. The central objective of Family Wellbeing (FWB) is to develop people's skills and capacity to move from a position of disempowerment to empowerment. FWB aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a way to control and  change their lives.

    Recommendations and outcomes from the national roundtable Empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the Family Wellbeing program, Adelaide, March 2014 have recently been published as Watering the Garden of Family Wellbeing: Empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to bloom and grow.