31 May 2019

Budget's mental health scheme needs 1600 new workers - government

4:28 pm on 31 May 2019

The government has pledged to recruit 1600 more workers for mental health over the next five years, and plans to retrain health workers already in New Zealand rather than hire from overseas.

Health Minister David Clark

Health Minister David Clark Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Yesterday's Budget set aside $455 million to provide front-line help for people with mild-to-moderate mental health and addiction needs.

Budget documents said new workforces will be built to support people, with $212m included for health workforce training and development, but no figure had been put on the number of new staff that would be required.

Health Minister David Clark told media at the Mangere Community Health Centre in Auckland a lot of the new workers required would be professionals already working in the health industry who could benefit from additional training.

He said the workers would be a mix of people already in the health industry and others who were new to it.

"About a quarter of those are likely to be new. A number will be retrained - people with existing health qualifications who may be working in related fields will get specific training to be suitable in this area."

The service is to be rolled out over five years, by which time it is expected to be helping 325,000 people.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government was looking to recruit New Zealanders, rather than workers from overseas.

There has been some concerns expressed by academics about the number of new staff required for the scheme.

Clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland yesterday estimated New Zealand would need to at least double the number of mental health specialists to deliver what the Budget set out.

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