Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
License needed for work use Register

News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Frontline Mental Health Services Desperate For Action

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists says frontline mental health workers are overwhelmed by skyrocketing demand and have seen no meaningful progress despite the promises of the 2018 mental health inquiry.

In assessing progress on the recommendations from the inquiry, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission describes frustration over the pace of change and the speed at which funding is being delivered. It suggests some progress has been made but points to an urgent need for an overarching plan.

ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says while the Commission’s report is welcome, it does not reflect the dire situation facing patients and those trying to provide services on the ground.

“I think staff would argue that there has been no meaningful change to the system at all, with acute and community psychiatric services completely overwhelmed and in crisis,” she says.

ASMS recently asked psychiatrist members to detail their experiences. Below are a few of their comments.

“Increasingly we are seeing people turning up later into the course of their illness, or patients who were already on the waiting list turning up at the emergency department, because the wait list is months long. We are seeing things reaching a crisis point for people more often. Usually, we’d be able to intervene earlier and stop someone from getting to crisis point, but we can’t do that if we don’t have enough staff”.

“We haven’t increased inpatient beds in 20 years and the population has increased, so there needs to be more sub-acute beds. A lot of our beds are blocked by people because there is no accommodation and then we can’t get crisis patients in or they come in later and so they’re sicker”.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

“We are highly under-resourced – there just aren’t enough staff, not enough resources. There is huge demand, really, really high need and we’ve been significantly impacted not just by high rates of severe mental illness but significant deprivation, homelessness, poverty, substance abuse issues, and not being able to get resources to address those needs”.

ASMS believes the long-term lack of workforce planning and investment to match the growing demand for mental health services has compounded the problems.

“We know we’re well short of psychiatrists but there’s been no assessment of how many we actually need to provide a quality service and what is urgently needed is a kind of national ‘job sizing’ of the psychiatrist workforce”.

Sarah Dalton adds that improvements to mental health and wellbeing go hand in hand with social determinants such as poor housing and poverty and that is where many of the remedies lie.

“This is especially important with mental health where there isn’t enough supported accommodation, and many vulnerable patients are homeless. They fall through the cracks because they are not in a position to access healthcare”.


© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

International Art Centre: Rare Goldie Landscape Expected To Fetch $150,000

When Evening Shadows Fall is one of four works by Goldie included in a sale of Important and Rare Art at the International Art Centre in Parnell on November 28. Goldie painted only a handful of landscapes, concentrating mainly on indigenous portraits, which earned him a global reputation as NZ’s finest painter of respected Māori elders (kaumātua). More

Mark Stocker: History Spurned - The Arrival Of Abel Tasman In New Zealand

On the face of it, Everhardus Koster's exceptional genre painting The Arrival of Abel Tasman in New Zealand should have immense appeal. It cannot find a buyer, however, not because of any aesthetic defects, but because of its subject matter and the fate of the Māori it depicts. More



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland

Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.