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Response to Government’s first "Wellbeing Budget"

ACEM New Zealand Faculty Chair Dr Andre Cromhout:

Mental health funding

ACEM welcomes the investment of $1.9 billion for the sector and commits to working collaboratively with other stakeholders to improve the management of increasing number of people who present to emergency departments in a state of mental health crisis.

The focus on early intervention in this Budget, and on low and moderate mental illness, is welcomed and will hopefully prevent presentations to emergency departments. However, models of care for patients with acute mental and behavioural conditions who present to emergency departments at a time of crisis also need to be improved.

We welcome the $455m for new services of mental health workers at places such as health and doctors’ clinics. We would also suggest that consideration be given to placing more mental health workers in emergency departments to assist people who present in a state of deep distress. This could reduce in emergency department waiting times and assist people to navigate their way through the health system. It is also vitally important that adequate mental health services are provided after hours to provide an alternative to emergency departments for people who experience a mental health crisis after hours or on weekends.

Infrastructure

While we welcome new buildings and improvements to existing hospitals, unless capacity is built into the overall hospital system in order to deal with the extra patients and to provide proper care, it is just infrastructure.

Widespread access block in emergency departments is a symptom of system wide dysfunction, poor system capacity, and inadequate inpatient flexibility to manage known demand.

Improvements in hospital capacity are required to overcome overcrowding in emergency departments.

Investment for District Health Boards (DHBs)

To ensure the community has ongoing access to an accessible, high quality and safe health system, this funding needs to be backed up with clinical engagement with frontline emergency department staff.

Emergency physicians must be engaged and empowered, along with other healthcare workers and people with lived experience, to provide the evidence and data to lead quality care improvement initiatives across the health system.

Background

Read ACEM’s statement on Government’s response to the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry report

ACEM is the peak body for emergency medicine in New Zealand, responsible for training emergency physicians and advancement of professional standards. www.acem.org.au

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