Victorian Government has it right

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The Australian Psychological Society (APS) today endorsed the recommendation by the Victorian Government to spread the health care workload among other health professionals to tackle Australia’s shortage of doctors.

The Victorian Government, in its submission to the Productivity Commission, stated that expanding access to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to non-medical professionals should be a priority area of reform.

"Minister Pike is correct when she suggests that the most constructive solution to the medical workforce crisis in Australia is to utilise the skills of equally well-qualified health practitioners", says David Stokes, Manager Professional Issues for the APS.

According to the APS this solution is particularly appropriate where doctors are primarily managing mental health problems. "While acknowledging the expertise of the medical profession, there are other health practitioners equally well-trained and capable of working with them in meeting the needs of people with mental health problems, particularly in rural areas," says Stokes.

Currently, GPs are funded through Medicare to provide 'Focused Psychological Strategies' to treat people with mental health problems. Access to these Medicare items is not available to psychologists. "People therefore seek affordable psychological help from overworked GPs who may have limited mental health training. They could have access to high quality, effective interventions from the psychology workforce if psychology access to Medicare was allowed," says Stokes

In the Society’s own submission to the Productivity Commission's Health Workforce Study, it stated that the existing psychology workforce is under-utilised in both the public and the private sectors. The demand for mental health services in Australia exceeds the current workforce that is accessible to consumers, as there are a low number of psychiatrists and only a limited number of mental-health trained general practitioners involved in Government mental health initiatives.

"There are at least 10,000 psychologists spread across Australia who are highly qualified to treat mental health disorders, but they are significantly under-utilised due to issues associated with affordable, government-supported access for consumers," argues Stokes.

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For more information:

Elaine Grant
Communications Manager
Australian Psychological Society
03 8662 3300 or 0412 683 068