The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has commended the government for its quick response in addressing key services gaps in the new telehealth arrangements.
The RANZCP President, Associate Professor Vinay Lakra, welcomed the additional $24 million for temporary telehealth measures which will better support general practitioners and specialists to provide much need care to patients.
‘We are still going through the details of the package, but we thank the government for responding so quickly to RANZCP’s call and those of psychiatrists across the country who have expressed concern about the experiences of patients with particular needs.
‘With the impact of COVID ongoing, the temporary reinstatement of specialist inpatient telehealth MBS items, for both video and telephone, will go a long way to bolstering the COVID-safe capacity of our hospital system.
‘It will bring about improved continuity of care for patients in private hospital settings by ensuring the people who are in hospital can access appropriate mental health care.
‘The re-inclusion of MBS items for complex specialist telephone consultations and longer telephone consultations for psychiatrists will be a life support for many patients across the country.
‘This is especially important for people living in rural and remote settings and those most vulnerable in the population.
‘For some of these patients, videoconferencing is not possible due to various reasons and the telephone remains their only way to access the care they need when they need it.’
The RANZCP notes the temporary nature of these changes and trusts the government will continue to monitor these arrangements in the context of the emerging needs of all Australians.
‘It’s also important to note that this announcement does not address the removal of MBS telehealth item 288, the rural loading, and the impact this is currently having on affordability and access to psychiatric services.
‘Without extra support for those who experience geographic or socio-economic disadvantage, many patients will remain without access to either telehealth or face-to-face services.’
We look forward to continuing work with the government to refine the policy settings around telehealth to ensure it delivers equitable, affordable and accessible care for all patients across the country.
For more information and 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 RANZCP Media on +61 437 315 911, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.