A positive start for affordable mental health treatment; more to be done

26 October 2022
 
 
 

The peak body for psychiatrists, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), welcomes key mental health initiatives to improve affordable access to mental health treatment within the interim Australian Federal budget.  

The RANZCP President, Associate Professor Vinay Lakra, welcomes key mental health measures as positive steps forward, including:

  • The reinstatement of Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS) Item 288 (50% Rural Loading): MBS 288’s removal had compounded existing economic and geographic inequalities by burdening patients with unaffordable gap fees and/or out-of-pocket costs and limiting psychiatrists’ ability to offer services to rural patients. As the only speciality to have their loading returned, the RANZCP commends the Federal Government for responding to our extensive advocacy. In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, such measures allow psychiatrists to bulk bill people in rural areas and improve affordable access to a psychiatrist. 
  • A commitment to making medicines cheaper by decreasing the maximum co-payment under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from $42.50 to $30 per script. Reducing the cost of essential medicines is welcomed and is key to improving the affordability of treatments for mental health and physical health conditions. As a peak mental health body, the RANZCP offers its expertise to the government to support further improvements to the affordability of non-pharmacological treatments.

 
'It’s positive to see the Federal Government deliver on key election promises such as making medicines cheaper and addressing the bulk-billing of telehealth psychiatry consultations in regional and rural areas', Associate Professor Lakra said. 

The RANZCP also welcomes the Government’s $5.3 million investment in the National Centre of Excellence in Intellectual Disability Health. The RANZCP has advocated for the collection of data on the needs of people with intellectual disability who are living with mental health conditions to support better service planning and better health outcomes. 

The RANZCP’s budget submission included proposals that require Government action. In particular, the RANZCP urges long-term funding to deliver child and adolescent mental health services and investment in the child and adolescent psychiatry workforce. 

'The RANZCP is looking forward to continuing our role as an active partner in discussions around other key mental health areas which also need urgent attention, such as addressing child and adolescent mental health'. 

'The Federal Budget provides some funding for specific projects such as additional youth mental health services. We know that children’s mental health has deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic which is why we’re looking forward to working with the Federal Government to ensure long-term national funding models for the sustainable delivery of child and adolescent mental health services are identified and delivered'.

There also remain serious gaps in affordable mental health care access across both rural and metropolitan areas. Every Australian should be able to access the support they need for their mental health and wellbeing.

With the Government’s Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, the RANZCP reiterates our offer of ongoing expertise to reform Medicare, to strengthen multidisciplinary working capacity across the health care system.

We anticipate that the next full budget to be announced in 2023 will fund current successful workforce initiatives. These enhance psychiatrists’ role in improving the quality and timeliness of primary care by providing a greater option of affordable psychiatry services to refer to. 

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

ENQUIRIES: For media enquiries or to arrange an interview contact +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

In Aotearoa New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, 1737 is here to help, for free - Mental Health. You can also contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or www.lifeline.org.nz or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or www.lifeline.org.nz/suicide-prevention.