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    Mental health-related services provided by general practitioners tables (495KB XLS)
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    General practitioners (GPs) are often the first port of call for people seeking help when suffering a mental illness. GPs provide a variety of services, including referral of the patient on to specialised services.

    This section presents information on mental health-related services provided by GPs, from two data sources:

    1. Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) survey of general practice activity, which provides detailed information about GP encounters (Britt et al. 2015), based on a sample of GP activities.
    2. Specific mental health-related Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items provided by GPs (known as Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services).

    These two data sources provide complementary insights into mental health-related GP care. Not all mental health-related GP encounters are billed using Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) mental health specific item numbers, or subsidised through the MBS, consequently the estimated number of GP encounters from the BEACH survey are greater than the Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services provided. For more details see the data source section.


    Key points

    • According to the BEACH data, an estimated 12.7% of GP encounters were mental health-related in 2014–15.
    • There has been an annual average increase of 6.1% in the estimated number of mental health-related GP encounters recorded since 2010–11.
    • Depression was the most commonly managed problem by a GP in a mental health-related encounter (about one-third, or 32.8%, of mental health-related encounters were for this problem).
    • The most common management of mental health-related problems was for the GP to prescribe, supply or recommend medication (63.7 per 100 mental health-related problems managed).
    • People aged 35-44 had the highest rate of encounters of all the age groups (18.0 per 100 GP encounters), compared with a total rate of 12.7.
    • According to the MBS data, there were 2.9 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services provided by GPs in 2014–15.
    Data in this section were last updated in October 2016

    Overview

    An estimated 12.7% of all GP encounters reported in the BEACH survey were mental health-related encounters in 2014–15. This translates to over 17.6 million mental health-related GP encounters (an estimated 746 encounters per 1,000 population) (Table GP.1).

    About 2.9 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-related GP services were provided in 2014–15 (an estimated 123.5 per 1,000 population) (Table GP.8).


    Service provision

    States and territories

    There were about 2.9 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services provided by GPs to almost 1.7 million patients in 2014–15. Most of these services (97.3%) were GP Mental Health Treatment Plan items. Victoria had the highest patient rate (79.1 per 1,000 population) and service rate (143.1 per 1,000 population) while the Northern Territory had the lowest patient rate (34.3 per 1,000 population) and service rate (54.0 per 1,000 population) (Figure GP.1).


    Figure GP.1: Medicare-subsidised mental health-related GP service and patient rates, states and territories, 2014–15

    Vertical bar chart showing the rate of Medicare-subsidised services and patients per 1,000 population by state or territory in 2014-15. For services, NSW had a rate of 126.2 per 1,000 population, Vic 143.1, Qld 124.7, WA 92.5, SA 111.5, Tas 98.5, ACT 96.8, NT 54.0 and a total 123.5. For patients, NSW had a rate of 71.8 per 1,000 population, Vic 79.1, Qld 72.2, WA 55.6, SA 66.7, Tas 62.4, ACT 60.3, NT 34.3 and total 70.8. Refer to table GP.10.

    Source: Medicare Benefits Schedule data (Department of Health).

    Source data Mental health-related services provided by general practitioners Table GP.10 (495KB XLS).


    Over time

    The estimated number of mental health-related GP encounters identified in the BEACH survey increased by an annual average of 6.1% between 2010–11 and 2014–15.

    The proportion of all GP encounters that are mental health-related has increased from 11.7% in 2010–11 to 12.7% in 2014–15 (Figure GP.2).


    Figure GP.2: Mental health-related GP encounters (per cent of total GP encounters), BEACH, 2010–11 to 2014–15

    Line graph, including 95% confidence intervals, showing the per cent of total GP encounters that are mental health-related from 2010–11 to 2014–15. From 2010–11 to 2014–15 were 11.7, 12.1, 12.3, 12.8, and 12.7. Refer to Table GP.1

    Note: The thin vertical bars are 95% confidence intervals. We can be 95% confident that the true value is within the interval depicted.

    Source: BEACH survey of general practice activity.

    Source data mental health-related services provided by general practitioners Table GP.1 (495KB XLS)


    Since the introduction of the GP Mental Health Care items as part of the Better Access initiative in November 2006, there has been steady growth in the number of Medicare-subsidised mental health-related GP services, as demonstrated by an average annual growth of 6.5% in the rate of GP services over the 5 years to 2014–15 (Figure GP.3).


    Figure GP.3: Medicare-subsidised mental health-related GP service rates, 2010–11 to 2014–15

    Line chart showing the rates of Medicare-subsidised mental health-related GP services from 2010–11 to 2014–15. In 2010–11 the rate per 1,000 population was 96.1, followed by 2011–12 97.5, 2012–13 105.2, 2013–14 113.7 and 2014–15 123.5. Refer to table GP.8.

    Source: Medicare Benefits Schedule data (Department of Health).

    Source data Mental health-related services provided by general practitioners Table GP.8 (495KB XLS)

    Reference

    Britt H, Miller GC, Henderson J, Bayram C, Harrison C, Valenti L, Wong C, Gordon J, Pollack AJ, Pan Y, Charles J. 2015. General practice activity in Australia 2014–15. General practice series no.38. Sydney: Sydney University Press.


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