The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has commended the Federal Government on its investment of $308.6 million to strengthen health care delivery for all and specifically the $106 million to make telehealth a permanent feature of our health care system.
The RANZCP President, Associate Professor Vinay Lakra, said this was very welcome news and would bring a great deal of relief and certainty to both patients and their doctors who have come to rely on the benefits of telehealth.
‘The early initiative shown in the rapid expansion of telehealth under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) during the pandemic really highlighted how valuable telehealth is to improving access to mental health care for all Australians, no matter their circumstances or where they live.
‘While we still await some of the details on the announcement, it should help to ensure greater flexibility to patients and doctors for the delivery of health care; allowing GPs, specialists, and allied health professionals to continue to consult with their regular patients by videoconference or phone.
‘The use of telehealth services has allowed us to continue to provide high quality mental health services to users without interruption during the most challenging times – and now this can continue.
‘It has also opened the door to mental health and psychiatric treatment for many who previously may have not been unable to access services.’
The RANZCP has worked closely with the Government and the Department of Health meeting on a regular basis to secure equitable access to telehealth services into the future.
‘This is the culmination of comprehensive College advocacy which has been built on the enormous contributions of so many of our committees and individual members.
‘It has also included direct correspondence to the Prime Minister, Minister for Health, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and the Treasurer.
The RANZCP conducted its own extensive survey on telehealth in psychiatry and worked in partnership with peak consumer and carer organisation, Lived Experience Australia, on a consumer/carer survey.
Associate Professor Lakra expressed his disappointment at the removal of the rural telehealth loading (MBS item 288) for psychiatry without an alternative option to support patients who experience geographic or socio-economic disadvantage.
‘We have consistently and strongly affirmed the need to develop alternative options to enable ongoing affordable access to all services, telehealth or face-to-face.’
Associate Professor Lakra emphasised his commitment to continue to work with the Government to ensure the announced changes deliver on improving the quality of mental health care equitably for all communities.
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.
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 New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, 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.