Expanding and developing the mental health workforce.

What the Royal Commission said

The workforce supports the effective functioning of the mental health and wellbeing system. 
The Royal Commission recommended a range of reforms to address serious workforce shortages and prepare for reform.  

It recommended new education, training and recruitment strategies to attract, train and build a workforce to support Victoria’s mental health and wellbeing system.

The recommendation called for:

  • 60 new funded graduate placements for allied health and other professionals
  • 120 extra funded graduate positions for nurses
  • 140 fully funded postgraduate mental health nurse scholarships annually
  • an agreed proportion of junior medical officers to undertake a psychiatry rotation, with it being mandatory for all junior medical officers by 2023 or earlier
  • a representative and collaborative mental health leadership network
  • improved workforce data collection and use
  • greater opportunities for improved international recruitment processes for our medical workforce.

What are the opportunities?

The reform offers an opportunity to overcome challenges faced by the mental health workforce in Victoria. Some of the challenges include:

  • many resources are overstretched
  • workforce shortages
  • the need to develop more pathways into employment
  • workforce stigma
  • a lack of specialist skill development
  • attracting people back to public mental health
  • difficulty retaining employees in the workforce.

What are we doing?

We are developing plans to expand and support the mental health workforce into the future. 

The 2020-21 Victorian State Budget invested in programs to increase the number of workers in the system and further develop educational and training pathways and recruitment strategies. The 2021-22 Victorian State Budget invested $206.3 million to build workforce growth, training and capability.

Initiatives include:

Junior Medical Officers

To improve mental health capability in the system, we are working to encourage more junior doctors to specialise in psychiatry.

From 2021 we are funding new Junior Medical Officer positions and supervisors. From 2023, a new mandatory training rotation in psychiatry means all junior doctors will learn mental health skills.

We have worked with the sector and people with lived experience of mental illness to develop a framework to support Junior Medical Officer rotations to ensure they have a positive experience.

Mental health nursing

We are also working closely with the sector to grow the mental health nursing workforce.

From 2021 we have increased the number of graduate mental health nurse positions, graduate educators, and new mental health postgraduate nursing scholarships.

Development of an allied health graduate mental health program and new positions

We have worked with Eastern Health to design an Allied Health Mental Health graduate program. This will support allied health graduates when the program commences in 2022.

Attracting professionals to the mental health workforce

The Royal Commission identified workforce as a critical enabler of reform. Ensuring Victoria has a skilled, supported and diverse workforce is a priority.

We are working on communication initiatives to promote and build our workforce and to showcase  opportunities as part of the reform agenda.This will include a focus on local and international workforce attraction.

Developing mental health leadership

We are in the early stages of planning to develop a collaborative mental health leadership network that once established will form part of the Victorian Collaborative Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Understanding our workforce and planning for the future

Limited workforce data is a significant challenge in planning the workforce needs for the future. We have developed a workforce census that will help establish the current mental health workforce profile in all Victorian specialist public mental health services.  

The census is a first step at improving our data collection capability and will provide valuable data about more than 7000 workers across all locations, disciplines, settings and sub-specialties. It will include total numbers of full-time equivalent staff, headcount, and vacancy numbers for all staff employed, including all service delivery disciplines, education, administration, and management positions.  

This includes details of the lived experience workforces employed by specialist mental health services. The data will contribute to the development of a sustainable workforce that is diverse, skilled and large enough to deliver effective treatment, care and support to Victorians with mental illness or psychological distress.