COAG health council backs action on mental health

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Australia's health ministers have endorsed a move for an improved national mental health system and added 'Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety' as the tenth National Health Priority Area.

The COAG Health Council, which includes federal, state and territory health ministers, met in Perth this week with its communiqué confirming the new priority.

According to the communiqué, "It was estimated that in 2017-18, over 20 per cent of Australians had a mental health condition."

It says the division of roles and responsibilities across Australian governments has led to a "fragmented mental health system which consumers and carers find difficult to navigate when looking for the right service for their mental health needs."

Health ministers said the mental health system should be simple, unified and integrated.

"Achieving this will require cooperation between all jurisdictions and cover all services from prevention to recovery. Health Ministers agreed to establish partnerships between the Commonwealth and states and territories to clarify roles and responsibilities, strengthen shared responsibilities and improve the integration of mental health services and other services such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme and drug and alcohol services with physical health services."

The meeting also endorsed 'Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety' as the tenth National Health Priority Area.

"Medicines are the most common intervention in health care and contribute to significant health gains. However, medicines can also be associated with harm," said the communiqué.

"Half of all medication related harm is preventable and a coordinated national approach that identifies and promotes best practice models and measures progress towards reducing medication related harm has the potential to improve the health of Australians and create savings across the health care system."

The Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council, which includes the leaders of Australia's federal, state and territory health bureaucracies, has been tasked with preparing a national baseline report on the Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety.