Original Research

Challenges affecting the implementation of the Policy on Integration of Mental Health Care into primary healthcare in KwaZulu-Natal province

Esther N. Hlongwa, Maureen N. Sibiya
Curationis | Vol 42, No 1 | a1847 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v42i1.1847 | © 2019 Esther N. Hlongwa, Maureen N. Sibiya | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 July 2017 | Published: 21 August 2019

About the author(s)

Esther N. Hlongwa, KwaZulu-Natal College of Nursing, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Maureen N. Sibiya, Faculty of Health Sciences, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Since the publication of the White Paper for the Transformation of the Health System in South Africa in 1997, which included Policy on Integration of Mental Health Care into primary health care (PHC), there has been an emphasis on the promotion of health as well as the re-engineering of PHC to include the integration of mental health care into PHC. Although South Africa has made significant advances at the level of health-related policy development and legislation in trying to bring the country in line with international trends, there have been challenges with regard to implementation of policies, including that of integration of mental health care into PHC.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the challenges affecting the implementation of the Policy on Integration of Mental Health Care into PHC in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province of South Africa and to seek possible solutions.

Method: A qualitative exploratory descriptive design was used to determine the challenges affecting the implementation of the Policy on Integration of Mental Health Care into PHC in KZN. The sample consisted of 42 participants of whom 4 were PHC managers, 6 were operational managers and 22 were professional nurses who were directly involved in implementing the policy at the operational level.

Results: The challenges identified included lack of training in mental healthcare services for staff working in PHC, unavailability of mental health policies, inadequate resources, poor communication between management and staff, lack of skills among PHC nurses in identifying signs of mental illness and misdiagnosis of patients.

Conclusion: Considering the challenges pertaining to PHC nurses’ abilities and skills to implement the Policy on Integration of Mental Health Care into PHC, PHC-trained nurses should engage in lifelong learning and be encouraged to develop their knowledge, skills and competence throughout their professional lives.


Keywords

primary healthcare; mental healthcare; health-related policies; integration of care; comprehensive care integration; service integration

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