The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has welcomed the confirmed extension of the COVID-19 telehealth psychiatry items announced in last night’s Federal Budget 2021-22.
The President of the RANZCP, Associate Professor John Allan, has said it brings relief and certainty to both the patients and their doctors.
‘The COVID-19 telehealth items under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) have been integral in allowing us to continue to provide mental health services to users and for them to be able to continue using those services, as uninterrupted as possible.
‘We’ve seen from the latest outbreaks and cases of community transmission that the threat of COVID-19 is not yet over, and therefore provision must still be made for those unable to attend regular mental health services due to being high risk.
‘The extension of these MBS items is a positive step for those in mental health and health in general as telehealth has provided access to regular service users as well as opened the door for those who previously may have not been able to access our services.
‘Consumer feedback received by psychiatrists in relation to the use of telehealth for their psychiatry consultations has also been positive.
The RANZCP strongly encourages the Federal Government to commit to the continuation of telehealth to further enhance Australia’s mental health service system and support those who have significantly benefitted from telehealth.
‘We are pleased that telehealth has been made available until the end of the year, however, there is not only great potential, but an even greater need for telehealth to exist beyond 2021.
‘It is integral to our country’s mental health that we invest in long-term access to assessment and treatment by telehealth to enhance person-centred care and go some way to compensating the shortfalls in psychiatrists, particularly in rural and remote areas.
‘Flexible access to all types of consultations should be a priority.
‘This will serve to enhance service provision by providing cost-effective delivery of services to people who already have mental health conditions or who have developed them during the pandemic.
‘The RANZCP looks forward to being actively engaged with the Federal Government in their planning for the future of telehealth, as we work towards a longer-term transformation of telehealth services beyond 2021.’
For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.
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