PSA calls for urgent meeting with Minister over extraordinary strain on mental health workforce

The PSA is calling for an urgent meeting with Mental Health Minister Matt Doocey to discuss workforce issues identified in a major five-year mental health and addiction monitoring report released today.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission’s report – Kua Tīmata Te Haerenga | The Journey Has Begun – identified several serious workforce trends between July 2018 and June 2023.

“People working in specialist mental health services and addiction services face extraordinary strain with serious implications for themselves, their communities, and the tāngata whaiora they serve,” says Kerry Davies National Secretary of the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.

“Fewer people can access the specialist services they need because there is such significant pressure on the workforce, with a high level of vacancies as well as the increasing complexity of patient need.

“We strongly support the Commission’s lead recommendation that Te Whatu Ora develop a workforce plan specifically for mental health and addictions workforces, and a distinct action plan to meet the needs of whānau Māori,” Davies says.

“A meeting with the Minister would be an important part of ensuring the voices of the workers who have first-hand experience of the issues are heard.

“Mental health nurses, drug and alcohol clinicians, allied health workers, support workers, assistants, and people across the system desperately want to be part of the solution. They deserve to be heard by the Minister.”

Davies says the PSA is deeply concerned that vacancy rates across adult specialist services were shown to more than double in four years from 5.5% in 2018 to 11.1% in 2022.

“Many of those pushed out of this field by lack of support and challenging working conditions are experienced people with years under their belt. Where they can be replaced, it is by people newer to the workforce still learning the ropes,” says Davies.

“What’s in this report is of no surprise to our members – whether they’re an Earlier Mental Health Response Nurse providing care over the phone to an increased number of people with complex need, or a crisis worker trying to keep services in Te Tai Tokerau operating.”

/Public Release. View in full here.