A Daley Labor Government will introduce nurse-to-patient ratios in mental health units in the NSW hospital system, a policy that forms the centrepiece of its Mental Health policy package.

Mandating nurse-to-patient ratios will dramatically improve patient care, reassure family members and support hard working nurses and other hospital staff.

The policy was announced by Mr Daley at the official NSW Labor campaign launch in Revesby in south-west Sydney today. 

Labor’s Mental Health policy package will also expand the number of mental health beds in NSW Hospitals, deliver 450 additional counsellors, psychologists and student support officers to high schools, set up an overdue NSW Legislative Council parliamentary inquiry into the NSW mental health system, and roll out a set of measures to improve existing mental health services across metropolitan and regional NSW.

Labor leader Michael Daley said:

“Under the Berejiklian Liberal and National Government, mental health patients have been turned away or have languished in emergency departments due to a lack of mental health beds – that is why Labor will deliver more mental health nurses and more mental health beds.”

Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said: 

“Each year, thousands of Australians will experience some form of mental illness and health workers in the health and hospital system are on the frontline. That is why Labor will prioritise investment in mental health care, and unlike the Liberals and Nationals and we will not splurge on stadiums.”

Labor candidate for Lane Cove, Andrew Zbik said: 

“Forty-five percent of Australians will experience a common mental health disorder during their lives. We know that nurse-to-patient ratios will improve care, better support families, and give patients the best chance to recover.”

“In Lane Cove people tell me they want better access to mental health care and more frontline staff to care for patients and Labor has listened and delivered.”

Broadly mental health nurse-to-patient ratios will translate to: 

  • One nurse to every four patients in mental health units during the day; 
  • One nurse to seven patients overnight; and 
  • One-to-one and one-to-two care for acute mental health patients needing level one and level two nursing observations – respectively; and 
  • Supervisory nurses in charge on every shift. 

Nurse-to-patient ratios in mental health wards will be introduced starting in 37 acute adult inpatient units in the first term of a Daley Labor Government. 

The nurse-to-patient ratios for mental health units is part of Labor’s overall plan to provide more than 5,500 nurses and midwives to deliver mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in emergency, maternity, medical and surgical and paediatric wards. 

NSW Labor also unveiled a number of other measures to improve mental health services in NSW - including more clinical psychologists and mental health workers in rural and regional NSW. 

NSW Labor will continue to support existing health and hospital mental health programs – and it will: 

  • Open more mental health beds in NSW hospitals by investing an extra $40 million; 
  • Hire an extra 30 clinical psychologists across NSW;
  • Train and employ 50 mental health outreach workers in regional NSW, to support communities affected by the drought;
  • Allocate an extra $20 million to partner with not for profit mental health groups in regional areas to complement existing services; 
  • Provide an extra $3 million for improved technology to support rural tele-health initiatives for local health districts to assist mental health workers and patients; 
  • Provide mental health first aid training to public school principals and senior staff to better assist students and colleagues; 
  • Provide $7 million to trial health screening and outreach in four Women’s Health Centres;
  • Provide an extra $1 million to fund eating disorder treatment services in the Illawarra; 
  • Establish a public sector mental health charter to support the wellbeing and safety within the NSW public sector; 
  • Work with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission and the Attorney General’s Department to ban the practice of gay conversion therapy in NSW – if there is not a national approach; and
  • Double the funding for the NSW Police Workforce Improvement Program with an additional $12 million to provide frontline police officers with the support they need to respond to the stressful and challenging nature of the work they undertake. (Up to 250 police officers will suffer physical injuries a month and up to 50 officers will suffer a psychological injury a month.)



Forty-five per cent of Australians will experience a common mental disorder in their lifetime. 

NSW Labor also recognises that half of all mental illnesses manifest before the age of 14 and three-quarters by the age of 25. Fourteen per cent of children between four and 17 years of age will experience a mental illness. 

The NSW Mental Health Co-ordinating Council reports that more than 1.3 million people – equal to 16 per cent of the NSW population are living with a mental health condition, and 3.1 million residents of NSW million residents of NSW living with or at risk to a mental health condition. Each year, there are about 600 deaths as a result of suicide in NSW. 

Doctors, nurses, paramedics and allied health staff across the health system have all witnessed an increase in patients presenting to emergency departments over the last eight years. 

In 2016-17, there were more than 94,000 mental health presentations to NSW hospital emergency departments. 

Media Contact: Walt Secord 0418 625 276/ Andrew Zbik 0411 894 788

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  • Andrew Zbik
    published this page in Updates 2019-03-11 23:42:07 +1100