Objective: Since 2006, the Australian Federal Government has aimed at expanding mental healthcare through the ‘Better Access’ programme of Medicare-subsidised services by private practitioners. We comment on population access to subsidised mental health treatment via health professionals in Australia.
Methods: We descriptively analysed Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data.
Results: Increasing percentages of the Australian population of people received Medicare-subsidised services from 2008–09 to 2019–20. Population access to mental health treatment increased from 5.7% to 10.7%. In 2019–20, psychiatrists provided services for 1.7% of the population, while GPs provided for 8.8%, clinical psychologists 2.2%, registered psychologists 2.9%, and other allied health providers 0.4%. Over the period, numbers of Australian psychiatrists providing services increased, but the numbers of patients seen per year, and other indicators, have either been flat or declined. GP, Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist and other allied health consultations increased overall, but again the numbers of sessions have decreased.
Conclusions: Medicare-subsidised private practice has greatly increased population access to mental health treatment. However, there appear to be a relatively limited number of consultations per patient for most provider groups. Further research is required on the effectiveness of treatment through collecting data on casemix and outcomes.
- Better Access
- private practice
- specialised mental health services