Reports of soaring out-of-pocket costs for General Practitioner (GP) consultations across Sydney highlight the real barriers that exist for those on low incomes needing treatment for mental health issues.
According to analysis of GP charges by Mind the Gap, GPs are charging patients up to $120 for a standard consultation.
New NCOSS CEO, Joanna Quilty, said increasing GP costs are potentially locking out those most in need from receiving mental health care.
“GPs are supposed to be the first port of call for people struggling with mental health issues. Finding a GP with the expertise and time required to treat mental health is hard enough,” Ms Quilty said.
“Rising out-of-pocket costs are yet another barrier preventing people who are doing it tough from receiving the care they need.”
The Mental Health Commission of NSW estimates that at any one time 23 per cent of people in NSW are believed to have an underlying or undiagnosed mental health problem.
Ms Quilty said more needs to be done to ensure mental health services are accessible for everyone in the NSW community, regardless of socio-economic status.
“In recent years we have seen dramatic increases in the number of people with mental health issues presenting at emergency departments and homelessness services, with nowhere else to go,” Ms Quilty said.
“These already-stretched services are far from the calming, recovery-focused environments that people with mental health conditions need, and should therefore be used as a last resort, not a first one.
“As well as prohibitive GP fees, GP Mental Health Treatment plans allocate as little as 20 minutes for a consultation, which often isn’t long enough. It’s no wonder that many people end up being prescribed medication only and nothing more.
“NCOSS is calling for improved access to affordable community-based mental health services, including in regional, remote and rural areas.
“Our mental health system is fragmented and complex to navigate. Community hubs where clinical services and other supports could be co-located would make it more likely that people would get integrated care at the right time, taking pressure off hospitals and emergency departments.”
For more information on NCOSS, go to www.ncoss.org.au