News

RFDS receives funding for rural and remote mental health services


Amanda Lyons


18/01/2019 1:59:20 PM

RACGP Rural Chair Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda applauds the decision – but urges the Government not to forget GPs working in the bush.

The RFDS is receiving $20 million in funding over four years to deliver new mental health services to rural and remote areas.
The RFDS is receiving $20 million in funding over four years to deliver new mental health services to rural and remote areas.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) will receive approximately $20 million over four years to deliver new mental health services to 150 locations in isolated areas.
 
‘The funding is part of our response to the shortage of mental health services in rural and remote Australia,’ the Federal Minister for Regional Services, Senator Bridget McKenzie, said.
 
‘We know there is a higher need for mental health services in these locations, compounded by an unequal distribution of the health workforce.
 
‘The funding will mean real benefits to patients in rural and remote areas who do not have access to mental health services because Commonwealth-funded activity doesn’t reach them.’
 
Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda, RACGP Vice President and Chair of RACGP Rural, is supportive of the RFDS funding.
 
‘There is a lot of isolation in very small rural and remote communities, but they deserve to have the services and healthcare others have access to,’ he told newsGP.
 
‘So it’s a great initiative to support those communities, and over the years the [RFDS] has a fantastic job for those communities.’
 
However, Associate Professor Shenouda said it is important not to neglect support for existing services, particularly GPs, who often have a significant role in providing mental health care to patients out in the bush.
 
‘We need to look at the bigger picture in terms of training GPs to have advanced skills in mental health in rural communities where a psychiatrist is not available,’ he said. ‘And when GPs have that advanced skill and are delivering mental health care, we need to remunerate them adequately for that delivery of care.
 
‘We also need to have team delivery of care and not only depend on one individual, otherwise they will become burnt out.’
 
While Associate Professor Shenouda feels the RFDS service could definitely complement existing services in rural and remote communities, he also emphasises the importance of care consistency.
 
‘A continuum of care is the best care level that you need,’ he said. ‘So in very remote areas where you cannot sustain a continual workforce, then it’s great.
 
‘But in areas where you already have services, you need to have a team approach and more GPs with advanced skills in mental health to address those issues.
 
‘So [while this funding] is an excellent thing to happen, we need to not forget about the other workforce issues that are happening in rural communities.’



mental health RFDS Royal Flying Doctor Service Rural and remote health



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