Privatisation of mental health advice line kept under wraps

Concerns have been raised over the future of a publicly-run mental health telephone advice line, following revelations several Local Health Districts across NSW have handed over delivery of the service to private provider, Medibank.

Earlier this month, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) wrote to Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, and Mental Health Minister, Bronnie Taylor, to highlight concerns the service was being privatised without consulting staff, mental health clients or the community.

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, said given the increasing demand on the state’s mental health system, it was profoundly disappointing the government would privatise such a crucial complementary service.

“During the current pandemic, the Berejiklian Government must continue investing resources to support vulnerable members of our community,” said Ms Kiejda.

“This telephone advisory line streamlines referrals for mental health consumers, giving them access to appropriately skilled nursing staff or psychologists, along with timely access to Mental Health Services in their local community.

“Instead of preserving this service, many Local Health Districts have already adopted a privatised model, including Murrumbidgee, Northern NSW and South Western Sydney.

“Meanwhile, Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Nepean/Blue Mountains and Central Coast Local Health Districts were all in the process of privatising their services until we intervened.

“We’ve received no correspondence outlining how privatisation provides a better clinical service, or the standard by which any trial of an external provider would be measured.

“We are very concerned about potential negative impacts this will have on mental health consumers and the broader community and we call on the government to stop the privatisation from occurring.”

The NSWNMA has lodged a dispute against the Ministry of Health in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission over the lack of consultation and contradictory advice provided by various Local Health Districts.

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