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Australia learns from mental health system transformation in Scotland (Australia)

May 5, 2011

A new Australian report reveals that a complete transformation took place in Scotland’s mental health system between 1999 and 2009. The report, written by the Menzies Centre for Health Policy, a collaborative centre between the Australian National University and the University of Sydney, identifies the factors contributing to the transformation, the conditions that fostered it, and their applicability to the Australian context.

The paper’s findings were developed after four years of research, including 50 interviews, observation and document analysis. The key contributing factors that led to system transformation included: the devolution of the Scottish parliament; widespread perception of the existing policy and legislative framework as problematic; publication of dramatic suicide statistics, with consequent media and parliamentary attention; a focus on openness and consultation; and high levels of communication within the sector.

Lessons learned included the:

  • Recognition that natural “moments of crisis” can be catalysts for transformation;
  • Need to look at existing methods of organization and communication, and improve on them;
  • Importance of disseminating statistics that highlight the need for change; and
  • Requirements for bureaucratic transformation to facilitate communication and policy innovation.

See “Working Paper: Transformation of a mental health system – the case of Scotland and its lessons for Australia,” March 2011, at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy website:

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