An early priority driving much of the collaborative effort between jurisdictions was the need to monitor progress of the Strategy itself. At the beginning of the Strategy, none of the existing national health collections had the capability for delivering the type and range of information needed within the time frame required. Thus, a separate collection was needed, tied to the national mental health policy objectives, that could be used as the basis for annual monitoring at the national level.
This special purpose data collection, first implemented in 1993, was aimed at building a picture of the range, level and costs of services available in each of the States and Territories and evolved into the annual National Survey of Mental Health Services. The survey covers all specialised mental health services managed or funded by the State and Territory health administrations, and requires the collection of data elements covering activity, expenditure and staffing in admitted patient services, community based services, and a range of 'system level' categories such as research and mental health promotion.
The first National Survey of Mental Health Services was undertaken by the Department of Health and Ageing in 1994 and has been repeated annually for all subsequent years of the Strategy. The data from the survey is reported periodically in the National Mental Health Report series.7 These reports are widely regarded as presenting the most comprehensive compilation of information about mental health services produced in Australia and have played an important role in informing government policy and resourcing by all governments.
7 For the most recent report at the time of publication, see Department of Health and Ageing (2004a). National Mental Health Report 2004: Eighth Report. Summary of Changes in Australia's Mental Health Services under the National Mental Health Strategy 1993-2002. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.