Mental health focus urged pre-hospital reform

While the media focus on which states will work with Prime Minister Rudd on his plans to reform health funding, a consortium of health groups is urging the states not to sign up without significant new measures.

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Victorian Premier John Brumby and the only Liberal leader, WA’s Colin Barnett, look very unlikely to be won over, and it’s not entirely clear what NSW will do.

But a band of and of organisations and experts say it must include significant measures for preventative, mental and indigenous health.

Led by Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry, the spokespeople have joined forces to urge the federal government to do better on its health reform package.

And they’re warning state leaders not to sign up unless more focus is given on keeping people out of hospitals, rather than looking after them when they get there.

The groups relate to mental and indigenous health, preventative healthcare, chronic diseases, the Cancer Council and the National Heart Foundation among others.

“Unless we see reforms in these areas, we will not reduce Australia’s dependence on hospital-based case,” Professor McGorry said in a statement on Thursday.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s plan lacked “real structural health reform”, with Prof McGorry calling for a co-ordinated mental health approach, with real investment and national programs.

‘More needed’ for mental health

The Public Health Association’s Mike Daube said the government’s preventative health plan was a step in the right direction, but more had to be done.

Just 2 per cent of health spending goes towards prevention, despite estimates that show up to 670,000 hospitals admissions each year are preventable.

Prof Daube would like to see the government impose a big tobacco tax increase – as part of a three-pronged attack on smoking, drinking and obesity.

Meanwhile, mental health experts believe the government has forgotten their cause.

“Mental health is responsible for the largest burden of disability in the Australian community and the third largest burden of disease after heart disease and all cancers,” said mental health campaigner John Mendoza.

“Yet we have seen or heard nothing on how the government plans to address a mental health system in crisis.”

Although Mr Rudd has already delivered his final 95-page offer to the states and territories, he’s promised more to come for mental health, dental care and preventative, including focuses on smoking and drinking.

His big health overhaul is due to face its biggest test when state leaders sit down for the COAG meeting in Canberra on Monday.