The union for senior doctors (including psychiatrists) has welcomed today’s release of a new report into mental health,
which acknowledges more needs to be done to strengthen the specialist workforce.
“The mental health workforce will be awaiting the Government’s response to this report with interest,” says Association
of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) Executive Director Ian Powell.
“Having not had the time yet to examine the full report, we cannot comment on the detail, but we support its call for
significant improvements that build on and expand the existing structure of the mental health system.”
Mr Powell was commenting on the release of He Ara Oranga, the long-awaited report into mental health and addiction led
by Professor Ron Paterson.
He Ara Oranga calls for the skilled mental health workforce to be strengthened, and for greater use of tele-health and
outreach positions to make it easier for people to get help.
It highlights the increasing societal need for mental health support and calls for new approaches to service delivery.
Recommendations include establishing a mental health and wellbeing commission and broadening the types of services
available. It calls for the introduction of a suicide reduction target of 20% by 2030, improved access to talk
therapies, and better interaction between GPs and hospital specialists.
The report acknowledges that more funding for mental health will be needed in next year’s Budget.
It also says it is essential to invest in and design a workforce that can deliver on the goals of providing a wider
range of interventions and support.
In its submission to the inquiry, the ASMS said an increase in the psychiatrist workforce must be a priority. There is
a crisis in the psychiatrist workforce in district health boards with 56% suffering work-related burnout.
The ASMS submission highlighted the increasing patient demand and unmet need. About 60% of the people who die by suicide
in New Zealand each year had not interacted with a mental health or addiction service in the previous 12 months.
Ministry of Health data show new referrals to mental health and addiction triage teams increased by 62% over the five
years from 2010/11 to 2015/16. This includes significant growth in self and family referrals, which is in part a likely
reflection of increased awareness of mental health and more willingness to seek help. While patient numbers increased by
50% in the seven years from 2008/09 to 2015/16, funding increased by just 27%, or 16.5% in real terms.