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     Mental health-related services provided by general practitioner portals
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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. 2014), 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 MBS, 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 13% of GP encounters were mental health-related in 2013–14.
    • There has been an annual average increase of 7% in the estimated number of mental health-related GP encounters recorded since 2009–10.
    • Depression was the most commonly managed problem by a GP in a mental health-related encounter (about one-third, or 32%, 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 (62 per 100 mental health-related problems managed).
    • People aged 35-44 had the highest rate of encounters of all the age groups (19.3 per 100 GP encounters).
    • According to the MBS data, there were 2.7 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services provided by GPs in 2013–14.

    Overview

    An estimated 13% of all GP encounters reported in the BEACH survey were mental health-related encounters in 2013–14. This translates to over 17 million mental health-related GP encounters (an estimated 735 encounters per 1,000 population).

    Approximately 2.7 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-related GP services were provided in 2013–14 (an estimated 114 per 1,000 population).


    Reference

    Britt H, Miller GC, Henderson J, Bayram C, Harrison C, Valenti L, Wong C, Gordon J, Pollack AJ, Pan Y, Charles J. 2014. General practice activity in Australia 2013–14. General practice series no.36. Sydney: Sydney University Press.


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