Spending on mental health services hits $8 billion

Over $8 billion was spent across Australia on mental health services in 2013-2014, according to Mental Health Services in Australia, a recent report released by the Australian Institute of Health Welfare (“AIHW”).

This figure represents a 4.7% rise in funding from the Australian Government from 2009-2014 and a 2.6% rise in funding from State and Territory Governments. In relation to the $4.9 billion spent on State and Territory specialised mental health services in 2013-2014, the largest expenditure was on public hospitals ($2.1 billion), closely followed by community mental health care services ($1.9 billion). The figures contained in the report reflect a growing demand for mental health services.

To view the media release, click here.

To view the report, click here.

News

Review of NHMRC Grant Program

The National Health and Medical Research Council (“NHMRC”) has announced a review of its Grant Program. The NHMRC administers the Medical Research Endowment Account (“MREA”) from which it awards various types of grants (totalling approximately $800 million annually) for medical research and medical research training.

The review was initiated following increasing numbers of grant applications received in the face of rising research costs, placing growing pressure on applicants and peer reviewers. Additionally, the review is in response to concerns that the current Grant Program is adversely affecting early and mid-year career researchers and new areas of research. The review will consider the current Grant Program’s impact and ability to meet the complex needs of health and medical research in Australia as well as alternative models.

The Office of the NHMRC will conduct the review, with assistance from an Expert Advisory Group led by Professor Steve Wesselingh. External advice will also be sought from the Health Translation Advisory Committee, the Health Innovation Advisory Committee and the Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus.

The review is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

To access the NHMRC’s website, click here.

Legislation

Health Complaints Bill 2016

The Health Complaints Bill 2016 (VIC) (“Bill”) was introduced into the Legislative Assembly on 9 February 2016 and received its Second Reading Speech on 10 February 2016.

The Bill follows a major review of the legislation some time ago by an Independent Panel chaired by Russell Kennedy Principal, Michael Gorton AM.

The Bill supports the recommendations of the Independent Panel and aims to establish a more comprehensive complaints system to target dangerous unregistered health practitioners and better protect the public.

The Bill will replace the Health Services Commissioner with the Health Complaints Commissioner and allow anyone to make a complaint, rather than just the person who received the health service. The Health Complaints Commissioner will also have the power to launch an investigation, even where no complaint has been lodged.

In certain circumstances, the Health Complaints Commissioner will be able to issue a public health warning statement which names the relevant health service provider in order to protect the public.

The Bill will also prevent health practitioners, who have been banned in other states, from providing healthcare services within Victoria.

To view our earlier Health Alert concerning the Bill, click here.

To view the Bill, click here.

To view the Second Reading Speech, in which Russell Kennedy Principal Michael Gorton AM is thanked for his contribution in chairing the expert panel that reviewed the Health Services (Conciliation and Review) Act and for the guidance he has offered to the Government in preparing the Bill, click here.

To view the media release, click here.