Australians’ Access To Psychology Services Under Attack

Australian Psychological Society

Peak body for psychology the Australian Psychological Society (APS) says Australians’ access to psychology services is under attack with further Budget announcements this week changing the way patients can access a psychologist.

The Federal Government has announced patients’ access to Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTPs) under Better Access will be linked to their GP enrolment in the voluntary patient registration system ‘MyMedicare’ from 1 November 2025.

Under the change, referrals to Better Access will need to be made by a GP at either a person’s MyMedicare-registered practice or their ‘usual GP’ if they aren’t registered for MyMedicare.

The government claims the change is to support continuity of care.

APS President Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe argued it would make access harder.

“This will not improve access for Australians. In fact, it will make it access to psychology services harder for some people.

“It isn’t easy or even possible for some people to have a ‘usual GP’, particularly for more vulnerable groups in our community, such as young people, itinerant people and those living in rural and remote areas.

“This means those people will face yet another barrier to accessing care.

“These are people who already typically experiencing higher rates of mental ill health. The last thing they need is another barrier to care.

“Not all people want to see their usual GP for a Mental Health Treatment Plan, for a variety of reasons.

“They may be embarrassed or not feel comfortable talking about some concerns with their usual GP,” she said.

Dr Davis McCabe also said this is a loss of patient choice in an environment where finding a GP is already difficult.

“In 2024 the idea that all Australians do, or even can, have a ‘usual GP’ is simply unrealistic.

“Getting into a practice in a timely way can be very difficult, which means psychological treatment is dangerously delayed.

“This government decision will lead to more treatment delays and people giving up altogether and self-medicating and self-harming.

“If you thought first responders and emergency departments were overwhelmed now wait to see this decision take effect.

“This poses a serious and real risk, especially when someone may be experiencing thoughts of suicide or at risk of developing suicidal ideation. 

“Despite this week’s Federal Budget rhetoric about improving access to mental health care, what we are actually seeing is more measures that will further restrict access to psychologists and make it harder for Australians to get expert psychological care, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“It seems Australians’ access to psychology services is under attack, despite 95% of Australians wanting to see more government investment in psychology right now.

“A better measure, which would have led to considerable cost savings for the government and would have benefited patients, would have been to remove the review requirements completely, as APS has previously advocated.

“We should also be enabling people to access up to three Better Access sessions without a GP referral.

“These are the sorts of sensible solutions that would genuinely make it easier for patients to access care.

“Instead, it seems our government is intent on adding more hurdles for people to jump over in their time of need.

“These are band-aid measures when there is no incentive to improve access to psychology services for people with mental health problems.

“GPs can’t do it all. It’s like greasing one part of a machine but not the rest. The overall result is likely nil net improvement unless the government start to address systemic issues, i.e., all parts of the mental health machine.

“Psychologists need incentives to bulk bill and to work in rural and remote settings, as well as higher rebates than currently offered.

“This follows a Federal Budget where the government failed to make meaningful investment into psychology. This change is just tinkering with the GP gatekeepers, not material change.

“Australians just need to be able to see a psychologist in a timely way for their mental health care,” she said.

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