The President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), Associate Professor John Allan, has welcomed the report’s findings, culminating five year’s work on how health services can better align with clinical evidence and practice to improve patient outcomes.
‘The release of this report, as well as the recent release of the Productivity Commission, Mental Health, Inquiry Report, has come at an important time in mental health,’ said Associate Professor Allan.
‘We are pleased with the support for telehealth, from both reports, in major cities for people who are otherwise prevented from attending face-to-face sessions and strongly encourage that this be considered alongside the government’s other plans for telehealth on a long-term basis,’ said Associate Professor Allan.
‘An increase in the number of consultations (from four to 15) with carers and other groups such as education providers for ongoing care is also a positive, and better reflects the collaboration at the heart of quality psychiatric practice and the role played by family members in supporting those with mental ill health.
‘That group psychotherapy can now be used for parent-infant group therapy is also commended.
‘As are the continued arrangements for the development of GP-requested management plans, although the initiatives which need to be put in place to encourage uptake and improved GP-psychiatrist communication will be crucial to their success,’ said Associate Professor Allan.
The RANZCP is also concerned about the removal of funding to support telehealth to rural and remote areas, currently available under MBS item number 288 without any adequate accompanying and clearly defined support to build the rural psychiatry workforce.
‘Given the immense challenges and complexities of rural practice, we need to be supporting both face-to-face and telehealth psychiatry or there is a real risk that this will lead to severe service disruption.
‘It is imperative that the Medicare Benefits Schedule helps to engender equity in access to appropriate quality treatment for all Australians, wherever they happen to live.
‘We will continue to work with the Department of Health, in light of COVID-19 and the recent telehealth announcements, to ensure that those who need access to mental health care, can access it whenever and wherever needed.
While the RANZCP notes a nominal increase in the scheduled fee for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) the amount proposed remains insufficient.
‘ECT is a complex treatment on many levels – in terms of the decision making prior to care, the administration of the procedure in the hospital setting, and the aftercare management involved in this type of treatment.
‘We are very concerned that continued inadequate funding of ECT will disincentivise health services from offering this treatment, even where it is the most appropriate choice of treatment for certain patients, and that this will be felt most severely in rural and remote areas where there is already an unmet need.
‘It is fundamental that ECT is available where it is indicated and appropriate based on clinical factors and the model of care – we do not want economic factors impacting perversely on treatment choices.
‘As many ECT patients tell us, this can be a life-saving and life-changing treatment,’ said Associate Professor Allan.
The RANZCP welcomes the establishment of a new Implementation Liaison Group to determine how these changes will work in practice, and we look forward to its guidance to ensure the consistent application of these recommendations, and the best possible mental health outcomes for patients.
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