Bill English promises mental health funding increase - but no review

Prime Minister Bill English says there will not be a review of the mental health system, but he has promised a funding increase.

The mental health system has faced criticism for being underfunded and under-resourced with stretched staff. The People's Mental Health Review released last week called for a national review and increased funding.

Speaking on The AM Show on Monday, Mr English said there will be "more money for more people, because in the end this is a people business".

"We can always do more, and more will be happening."

But mental health campaigners say a review is necessary so that funding is spent in the right places.

Mental health advocate, comedian Mike King, said the Government had a poor grasp of mental health spending, claiming Health Minister Jonathan Coleman "wouldn't have a clue" how much is currently being spent on mental health services.

"Do a stocktake. Look into the pantry, see what we've got before you go out shopping," Mr King said on Thursday.

When asked whether the system is failing, Mr English said it is not, but there is "a lot more" the Government can do.

There was a stronger demand and higher expectation for services than there was six or seven years ago.

Concerns have been raised about suicidal patients being sent home or referred to motels shortly after presenting to services. Mr English said those cases are more complicated than they appear.

"I've seen some of those stories, and I can say from experience these stories are more complex, usually, than how they are presented. Nevertheless, though, those are real concerns.

"We want to see those sorts of concerns dealt with because those people deserve to have a good strong mental health service."

The People's Mental Health Review collected 500 stories from self-selecting participants with experience of the mental health system. 

The People's Mental Health Review's four key recommendations:

  • An urgent funding increase for mental health services - with a focus on early intervention and easing workload pressures.
  • Independent oversight of the system - the report suggests reinstating Mental Health Commission or similar.
  • An urgent inquiry.
  • Education programmes on what mental health is and what services provide.

Watch the video to see Prime Minister Bill English interviewed on The AM Show.