Australian's unaware of changes to make access to private mental health care easier

Less than one in 10 Australians are aware of recent Government changes to make access to private mental healthcare easier according to a new survey released by St John of God Health Care.

St John of God Health Care mental health changes

13 March 2019

The YouGov Galaxy survey results show only nine per cent of Australians know about Australian Government changes made in April 2018 that enable people with basic hospital insurance to update their cover to include psychiatric care without a waiting period.

The changes were designed to improve access to private mental healthcare, which accounts for 55 per cent of all mental health hospital care provided in Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Australian Hospital Statistics: Admitted Patient Care 2016-2017).

St John of God Health Care Group Chief Executive Officer Dr Shane Kelly said the changes were designed to give more people access to psychiatric care, which many would not consider when choosing private hospital insurance cover, particularly if they have not experienced mental health issues.

“Our survey shows most Australians are not aware of the improved access to private mental health care, which is concerning because this may be resulting in people not getting care,” he said.

“We know that more than half of mental health care in Australia is provided in private facilities which highlights the importance of ensuring people have access to private mental health care and not only rely on public hospitals as demand for services grows.”

Between 2015/16 and 2017/18 demand for hospital mental healthcare grew by almost 10 per cent in public hospitals while it increased by five per cent for private hospitals.

Dr Kelly said that as the need for mental health services continued to grow, giving people the choice to access private care was an important way to balance demand.

“It’s our view that a healthy and vibrant private healthcare system takes pressure off public hospitals, provides consumers with greater choice, and by working in tandem with the public healthcare system, ensures availability of health services for all those in need,” he said.

“Therefore it is pivotal the community is aware of the new access opportunities to private mental healthcare without delays and also understand that the majority of hospital costs associated with private mental healthcare are covered by private hospital insurance and Medicare.”

St John of God Health Care runs three dedicated private mental health hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne, including the only inpatient Mother and Baby Unit in NSW at St John of God Burwood Hospital, a highly respected post-traumatic stress disorder treatment (PTSD) treatment program at St John of God Richmond Hospital, and St John of God Pinelodge Clinic in Dandenong, VIC.

St John of God Health Care also provides mental health services in the community through St John of God Raphael Services which provides free or no out-of-pocket expenses, personalised counselling and support for mums, dads and families, and community mental health services in Victoria.

“Our private mental health hospitals are able to provide targeted care and support for people with acute and ongoing needs, including for specific conditions such as postnatal depression and PTSD,” Dr Kelly said.

“This is really important as it not only fills gaps in service provision but also gives patients the choice of their hospital and clinician to match their needs.”