Sharp decline in mental health related GP visits

The slowdown in Medicare-subsidised mental health consults to GPs, published by the AIHW today, appears to have coincided with controversial cuts to the $400 million Better Access for GP mental health which took effect in November 2011.

“It’s still rising but the rate has slowed down,” AIHW spokesperson Dr Pamela Kinnear told MO.

“Certainly the rises are clearly associated with the Better Access initiative and we know that… that was scaled back so it would make some sense to see some reduction.”

The AIHW said the estimated number of mental health-related GP consults had grown by an annual average of 6% from 2007–08 to 2011–12. The proportion of GP encounters that were mental health-related also grew from 10.8% in 2007–08 to 12.1% in 2011–12.

But growth in Medicare subsidised GP mental health services slowed in 2011–12 compared the previous year with a rise of just