The Productivity Commission has released its latest report. This outlines a roadmap for the next five years of recommendations and policy directions to increase productivity. A notable concern is that mental health is almost entirely absent.
In November 2020, the Productivity Commission released its report into the economic impacts of mental ill-health, which began with acknowledging that mental health is a “key driver of economic participation and productivity in Australia”.
In its findings, it said that mental ill-health was costing the economy billions of dollars in lost productivity, and that reform of the mental health system would create improvements in people’s quality of life, valued at $18 billion annually, as well as an “additional benefit of $1.3 billion due to increased economic participation”.
According to this same report, Australian workers lost 10 -12 working days each year due to mental ill health.
It is astonishing, then, that the Productivity Commission’s latest report, Advancing Prosperity, seems to completely ignore the role of mental health in the productivity of our nation. If we are not mentally well, most of us cannot find the strength to show up, let alone make a full and meaningful contribution to our jobs, communities, relationships and families.
In one of its recommendations to address known issues in scope of practice, the Productivity Commission says “the Australian Government should work with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to expand Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme items to nurse practitioner services that currently receive inadequate funding”.
The current MBS provides a rebate that is not only woefully low for clients of psychologists, but two different rebates, with clients of a registered psychologist receiving $89 per session and those of a clinical psychologist receiving $129. Despite their education and training being the same or similar, and the fact that all psychologists provide the same service, to the same standards, to the same clients, there is a $40 difference.
In our 2022 private practice survey, around 87% of psychologists reported cost as being the major barrier to accessing services. In the midst of an ongoing mental health crisis, a cost of living crisis and the now relentless demand on our mental health service providers, is adequate funding too much to ask for?
Another recommendation in the report is for governments to “undertake trials for expanded scope of practice in health services where supported by evidence”.
There are almost 8,000 provisional psychologists in their final stage of supervised practice under a qualified psychologist, already working in unpaid employment to meet their requirements for full registration. These provisional psychologists are seeing clients face to face in private practice, providing vital mental health support that goes beyond an urgent phone call to a helpline. The evidence already exists.
Creating a Medicare rebate for provisional psychologists would ease waiting lists and provide an assured funding stream to allow for more placement opportunities, reducing the current bottleneck in advancing students into fully qualified psychologists.
In response to the recommendation for governments to encourage “human service providers to innovate and compete to meet consumers’ needs by providing citizens with more control over how government funding allocated to these services is spent”, we implore the Federal Government to listen to a community that is crying out for equitable access to mental healthcare.
Mental health is the forgotten piece of the productivity puzzle, and we ignore it at our peril. Now is the time to double down on our mental health investment - and improve productivity in the process.
To learn more about AAPi's policy recommendation, please visit our Help Us Help More campaign website.
What are we working on at the moment?
- Fighting to retain mental health services for Victorian workers after the news that cuts to workplace compensation for mental health injuries are being considered.
- NDIS advocacy. A new pricing review has been announced, focusing on reviewing therapy supports, supports delivered by disability support workers, support coordination and plan management. AAPi's contribution to these consultations will be vital in trying to safeguard psychology services under the NDIS.
- We are designing our first national conference. You can help shape this event by completing this survey.
- Expanding the value of AAPi membership- we have some great new services and benefits coming soon!
- We are ensuring that mental health is on the radar of politicians in the NSW election.
- AAPi participated in the Voluntary Assisted Dying consultation with the ACT Government and stressed the important role of psychologists in the proposed new legislation and in providing support to the treating health professionals, patients and their loved ones.
- We attended the ACT Allied Health forum earlier this month- it was so wonderful to connect with our allied health colleagues and hear about the innovative programs in the ACT and around the country.