June 29, 2022

Meet Jane Pickworth – Project Director, North Western Mental Health Disaggregation

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System made significant recommendations regarding the way mental health services are organised, integrated and governed, and proposed reforms in north and west metropolitan Melbourne. These reforms will lead to a more accessible, responsive and well-resourced mental health service over the coming months and years.

Northern Health will become a designated Mental Health Service from 1 July 2022 and will play a key role in the implementation of these reforms.

On 4 July, we will welcome Northern Area Mental Health Services (NMHS) and North West Area Mental Health Services (NWMH) to Northern Health. We will also welcome the staff of Merv Irvine Nursing Home and McLellan House.

Collectively, this will make us the third largest Mental Health Service in Victoria.

Today we speak to Jane Pickworth, Project Director, North Western Mental Health Disaggregation, Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH).

Jane, let’s start with your coffee order?

Long black thanks.

Tell us about your role as Project Director, North Western Mental Health Services, Disaggregation?

I’ve been in the role for almost six months and it is still evolving. Essentially, although the project’s overall objective is to transfer governance of the services to the local health service in the community in which consumers reside, a spin off is greater integration of general and mental health. You can’t separate the brain from the body and the world around it. I’ve had to get an understanding of what sites and services exist within the northern corridor and then understand which ones are transferring and when. Follow this up with a list of what needs to occur to make that happen and work through existing dependencies. I have been meeting and working alongside so many people, each possessing a myriad of expertise in supporting NWMH, mostly behind the scenes, but absolutely invaluable to the day-to-day operations of a very large clinical team. Northern Health have been willing partners in the process.

Tell us what you were doing prior to this role? 

I joined the COVID-19 pandemic support contingent, caring for returning travellers from overseas and refugees entering Australia. Our role was to help them stay well whilst in hotel quarantine through the coordination of a primary health agreement between Healthcare Australia and COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I talk to a lot of people and stare at a Gantt chart. I’m constantly accumulating more information to put on the ‘to do’ list to ensure items get captured and attended to. I have global awareness across a range of activities which helps me coordinate the moving parts. I enjoy meeting with the expert working groups, executive representatives and the Department of Health, and being able to help problem solve issues as they arise. 

What excites you about your role?

That I am doing my best to make sure the receiving health service, in this case Northern Health, is best placed to continue to support staff in the work they do with consumers. The vision of the Royal Commission is a worthy one and this work helps move transformation forward.

What are some of the challenges of this role? 

Adequately reassuring individuals that everyone from the RMH, NWMH and the receiving health services are doing all they can to ensure a seamless transition. My experience of health services is that they aggregate and disaggregate from time to time, on different scales, and for lots of reasons. I view this change as an opportunity, but I know lots of change, or change not managed well, can feel overwhelming for some.   

Lastly, what would people be most surprised to know about you? 

Back in the late 1990’s, I wrote a minor thesis on the purpose and process of the Ministerial Review of Health Care Networks, its proposal for change and how it was perceived to impact on management, staff and client care in one component of a Health Care Network – an Area Mental Health Service. At that time, I was working in the Northern Area Mental Health Service.