High demand for psychological services is a healthy sign

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) rejects claims that the higher than expected demand for psychological services under Medicare is bad news.

"We have known for several years that the public demand for professional psychological help is considerably higher than was anticipated when psychological services were included in Medicare," said APS President, Professor Bob Montgomery.

"The high take up indicates just how much unmet need there has been for evidence-based psychological assistance in the Australian community. That's what our own survey has found, that many people now consulting with psychologists tell us that they couldn't afford to before the Medicare rebate was made available and they are finding it very helpful now that they can."

"Rather than complaining about the success of this scheme in meeting a clear need within the community, we should be celebrating it and congratulating the governments for introducing and maintaining it."

"There are some who believe that first call on mental health spending should be for the treatment of the seriously mentally ill, predominantly people with psychosis and bi-polar disorders, including support for their carers. The vast majority of state based funding totalling $2.9 billion is provided to support the needs of this group of people which is approximately 3% of the population. We agree this is a very worthy cause but it should not be, as it was previously, at the expense of access to psychological treatment for the far greater number of people suffering with the high prevalence disorders, such as anxiety and mood disorders, which affect 20% of the population and cause substantial suffering and economic burden on the Australian community. Given there is probably never going to be enough to pay for all of our health needs, we should be striving for a fair balance in our health spending."

"Much of what has been said recently has been misleading, just plain incorrect, or totally lacking in any supporting evidence. For example, the claim that a gap fee of $35, apparently supposed to be charged by all psychologists, was blocking access for low income people ignores the large number of psychologists' patients who are being bulk-billed with no gap fee."

"While we are still awaiting the final outcome of the review of Better Access, our own APS survey responses of 2,233 people receiving psychological services under the Better Access initiative showed that over 90% of clients indicated that treatment had resulted in significant or very significant improvement," continued Professor Montgomery.

"A proper review of Medicare, including the use of psychological items, has been under way for some time and we are keen to see the outcomes. It is important that our health dollars are spent effectively. But speculative claims before the results are known are clearly made to serve other agendas."  

For media enquiries please contact:
Ellise McLoughlan
Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator
Australian Psychological Society
T: 03 8662 3300 | M: 0435 896 444 

The APS is the largest professional association for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 17,500 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to peoples' lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.