Community Affairs Legislation Committee
Wednesday 17 October 2012
Mental Health and Drug Treatment Division
Senator WRIGHT: I will turn now to the mental health nurse incentive program, or MHNIP. In May the government announced changes to this program, which essentially resulted in a pause in funding to the program. As a result, organisations employing mental health nurses were directed to maintain existing service levels based on 2011-12 services for the new financial year.
However, the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses has received notification from organisations and nurses that, based on recent directives from government about new service-level allocations for this year, they will actually need to cut their service levels on average by 22 per cent. In some cases organisations say they have been allocated service levels for this financial year that amount to a 30 to 50 per cent reduction compared to the last financial year. In the face of that kind of information that I am receiving, does the department maintain that the program has not been cut and that service levels are being preserved?
Ms Campion: The original notification that went out to organisations in July this year by necessity had to rely on incomplete data for the full financial year because there is a lag between the provision of services and those services being claimed and when the data for the financial year is available. So we had to do some estimates at that time based on the data we had available which was from July to April. In some cases it turns out that our estimates and the advice we gave organisations about their caps may have underestimated their actual level of services in 2011-12 particularly for those organisations that had experienced growth in the latter part of that financial year. For that reason, when we provided organisations with notification of their caps, we did make provision for them to request a review of those caps, and a number of organisations have done so. We have had 157 request so far out of 470 organisations registered with the program.
Senator WRIGHT: How many?
Ms Campion: There are 470. We have just completed the assessment of those requests for review.
Senator WRIGHT: And they have all been fully completed now?
Ms Campion: We have just completed and advice has just gone out today.
Senator WRIGHT: Can you give me a sense then of what the effect has been of those reviews? Have service levels being reassessed and increased, or is there a general application of what has occurred or is it a case-by-case basis?
Ms Campion: It is definitely a case-by-case basis. We had to assess the reasons that the organisation has provided to us in terms of the basis of their request for review. Some organisations provided a number of different factors, so we had to assess each one of those as well. The outcome is that, of those 157 organisations that requested are reviewed, 133 have had an increase to the cap for this year. That does not necessarily mean that they received their full request for an increase, but at a minimum they would have received an increase to reflect their level of service provision in 2011-12 to allow them to maintain services to patients at the level that they were being provided in 2011-12.
Senator WRIGHT: Thank you for that.