Decision on telehealth expansion urgently needed

09 September 2020

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is urging the Federal Government to immediately confirm the expansion of the telehealth MBS item numbers past the 30 September expiry date.

According to RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan, the government’s delay in announcing the future of the psychiatry telehealth MBS item numbers is creating significant problems for psychiatrists and their services, as well as causing further stress to mental health patients.

‘Confirmation, from the government, of the continuation of telehealth for psychiatry is urgently needed, to provide assurance to psychiatrists and consumers of continuity of care,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

‘A recent survey, undertaken by the RANZCP, has shown the need for the continued expansion of the telehealth Medical Benefit Scheme (MBS) item numbers to ensure future sustainability of our mental health system.

‘Through the telehealth MBS item numbers for psychiatry, a number of benefits have emerged including increased accessibility, higher frequency of appointments, increased engagement with hard-to-reach consumers and increased service availability.

‘We understand the government’s hesitation toward extending the MBS item numbers, however we believe that it will only further strengthen the value and quality of care provided.

The RANZCP strongly believes enabling the continuation of telehealth as an adjunct to face-to-face consultations beyond COVID-19, there is a significant opportunity to enhance Australia’s mental health service system in the longer term.

‘We need to start focusing on beginning to design a mental health system that works for everyone involved, practitioners, consumers and carers.

‘With over 1,000 respondents, the survey results have strongly indicated the need for future telehealth item numbers to safeguard flexibility for psychiatrists and consumers to make decisions as to when telehealth is an appropriate option.

‘Providing more flexibility for both consumer and psychiatrist has allowed for more choice when designing the best approach to the individuals mental health care plan.’

‘By introducing the telehealth changes the Australian government has shown a strong commitment to ensuring all Australians can access the mental health services they need to stay well.

‘We ask that the government now further that commitment by extending these changes beyond the duration of the pandemic, so psychiatrists can continue to provide high-quality mental health care throughout Australia.’

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email