Fourth national mental health plan: first progress report of implementation activity January - December 2010

2.4 Mental Health Workforce Advisory Committee (MHWAC)

Page last updated: 2011

MHWAC was established in 2005, as a subcommittee of the then National Mental Health Working Group (NMHWG) under AHMAC to address the national problem of shortages in the mental health workforce and difficulties with the geographic distribution of workers. Ensuring the workforce is suitably trained and competent was also a shared concern.

Under the review of AHMAC committee structures in 2006, the Health Workforce Principal Committee (HWPC) was established. As MHWAC was originally constituted for the life of the third National Mental Health Plan (2003-2008), HWPC has approved the continued operation of MHWAC for a further two, two-year periods to July 2012. MHWAC reports primarily to HWPC, but also maintains a reporting line to Mental Health Standing Committee (MHSC).

The HWPC has two major roles:

  • To provide a forum for reaching agreement on key national level health workforce issues which require government collaborative action and
  • To provide advice on health workforce issues to AHMAC.
Membership of MHWAC consists of representatives from jurisdictions, consumers, carers, Private Mental Health Alliance, Australian Private Hospital Association and the non-government sector.

Fourth national mental health plan implementation activity

Action 25 - Develop and commence implementation of a National Mental Health Workforce Strategy that defines standardised workforce competencies and roles in clinical, community and peer support areas

National mental health workforce strategy

In 2009, a Project Steering Committee with broad representation was formed to guide development of the Strategy and Plan. Consultations also took place in each capital city and in rural and remote sites at the end of 2009. Discussions have occurred with Health Workforce Australia regarding the documents and also regarding workforce competencies.

A National Mental Health Workforce Strategy and Plan were developed and have been endorsed by MHWAC and Mental Health Standing Committee (November 2010).

The National Mental Health Workforce Strategy and Plan will now be dispatched to HWPC, AHMAC and AHMC for endorsement in early to mid 2011. A detailed implementation plan will be developed following this endorsement. Top of page

Review of the national practice standards for the mental health workforce

Prior to looking at workforce competencies, it was agreed that a contained review and updating of the National Practice Standards for the Mental Health Workforce is also required, particularly in relation to including recovery care. It was further noted that a lengthy process would be a barrier to the timely development of workforce competencies.

A project brief regarding a contained review of the National Practice Standards has been considered by MHWAC and SQPS and it is expected that work on the project will commence in mid to late 2011.

Mental health professional online development pilot

In 2010, the Mental Health Professional Online Development (MHPOD) Pilot was conducted across all States and Territories except the ACT. Health professionals across many disciplines participated in the pilot and undertook up to ten of the forty-five topics that comprise the MHPOD.

An evaluation of the MHPOD pilot was carried out by the University of Melbourne. The evaluation found that this new resource for mental health workers had a positive impact on knowledge, skills and confidence.

In November 2010, Directors of Mental Health endorsed a two-year extension to the contract for development of a further twenty hours of topics with project support.