Australian mental health spend reaches $9 billion

Amanda Lyons

5/02/2018 3:32:00 PM

Figures released last week show that Australia’s overall spending on mental health has grown significantly over the past two decades, reflecting GPs’ increasing role in this area of healthcare.

The $9 billion Australia spent on mental health in 2015–16 equates to close to $373 per person.
The $9 billion Australia spent on mental health in 2015–16 equates to close to $373 per person.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) report, Mental health services in Australia, has revealed a substantial rise in Australia’s overall spending on mental health over the past two-plus decades, from $2.9 billion in 1992–93 to $9 billion in 2015–16. This equates to close to $373 per person, up from $354 per person in 2011–12.
Using data from Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) study, the report also found a 4.7% average annual increase in the number of mental-health related GP consultations since 2011–12. Mental health-related consultations with GPs across Australia numbered slightly less than 18 million in 2015–16, or 12.4% of all GP encounters. However, only 3.2 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services were provided by GPs in the same period.
The AIHW report concluded this gap occurred because not all mental health-related consults were billed using specific mental health-related Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item numbers.
The AIHW figures largely underscore findings in the RACGP’s General practice: Health of the nation 2017 report that mental health is the issue causing GPs the most concern for the future, and an area of health policy issue that should be prioritised for action by the Federal Government.
RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel previously told newsGP of the pressing need for further support for the management of mental health conditions in general practice.
‘The health and funding issues … must be crucially addressed,’ he said. ‘We have to be asking our patients, are you okay? And if we want a genuine dialogue and therapeutic conversations with our patients, we can’t do this in six minutes.

‘It has to be properly funded.’

AIHW Mental-health-services-in-Australia mental-health-spending

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Kylie Fardell   8/02/2018 5:18:44 PM

I'm not sure that more funding is the answer, and Dr Seidel's implication that we GPs currently try and manage a mentally unwell patient in six minutes is inaccurate and a bit demeaning. If funding has gone up so substantially in the past 25 years or so and yet we don't seem to be getting better outcomes surely we need to look at the evidence behind what we're doing, rather than just throw more money at it?

Rob Ramjan   14/02/2018 11:03:00 AM

This is an interesting article, but needs to show a few extra things, such as the percentage of the overall Health Budget, have we increased mental health spending as a share of the Health Budget, or have we actually gone backwards. Mental illness should attract around 14% of the Health Budget using the WHO Burden of Disease data. Second, how many of these consults were for people with severe and persistent mental illness. I suspect that with the suggested increased funding going to metal health, those with the greatest need are still missing out. Finally I agree with the above comment, it is not just a matter of more money, rather of interventions that are effective, recovery informed and preferred by the consumer.