Unlocking the potential of Mental Health Nurses by enabling access to the MBS

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Credentialed Mental Health Nurses (MHNs) in Australia are highly skilled, and educated Mental Health Professionals. All have postgraduate qualifications and many are experts in the provision of psychotherapy including working with those with the most complex health issues (see: 1, 2, 3). Successive Governments have failed to recognise the expertise or potential of MHNs. What was formerly known as the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Programme (MHNIP) offered some of the most vulnerable in the community access to medium to long term psychotherapy (see: 4,5) despite this not being officially recognised (see: 6). The MHNIP was handed to the Primary Health Care Networks (PHNs) as part of their flexible funding pool and any reference to the therapeutic capability of MHNs removed from the guidance notes on 'Stepped Care' (see: 7). Some PHNs have prevented MHNs from continuing to provide care to those in need. MHNs have been locked out of providing care under the Medicare Benefit Scheme including COVID-19 funding for tele-health measures (see: 8, 9). MHNs should have full access to the MBS, and their therapeutic skills recognised by all funders of mental health services.