Given the continued and substantial growth in uptake of Better Access since its introduction, it is of interest to know the extent to which the initiative is attracting 'new' consumers as it proceeds or, conversely, is providing services to a consistent group of people on an ongoing basis. To examine this question, the percentage of Better Access consumers who were new to the initiative in each of 2008 and 2009 was estimated. Table 3.20 shows, for each of 2008 and 2009, the number and percentage of consumers who: (1) had received Better Access services for the first time in that year (new consumers); and (2) who had used Better Access services prior to that year. The number and percentage of new Better Access consumers was calculated for any Better Access item, and then within each of several Better Access provider groups.

The first row of Table 3.20 shows that the majority of Better Access in 2008 and 2009 were new to the initiative. Of consumers who received at least one Better Access service in 2008, more than two–thirds (68.0%) were new Better Access consumers. In 2009, the percentage of new consumers was 57.0%. Note that the 2009 figures will always be lower than 2008 because consumers have had more opportunity to receive services prior to 2009. The percentage reduction in new consumers between 2008 and 2009 was 16.2%.

Subsequent rows of Table 3.20 show the equivalent figures for various provider groupings. The highest rate of new consumers occurs among those who received Consultant Psychiatrist services (92.1% in 2008; 86.9% in 2009). Rates for allied health providers were similar, ranging between 73.7% to 79.5% in 2008, and 66.9% to 74.5% in 2009. Rates were lowest for GP services (73.1% in 2008; 62.2% in 2009). Note that the percentage of new consumers in the individual provider groups will be higher than for overall Better Access services, because they only compare consumers of like–with–like services.

The data also show that the rate of new consumers decreased only modestly between 2008 and 2009 – 16.2% for all Better Access services, 14.9% for GP services, 5.6% for consultant psychiatrists, and between 6.3% and 11.9% for allied health provider services (depending on how these were grouped).

The proportion of services used by new versus existing consumers in each of 2008 and 2009 was also examined. Table 3.21 shows, for each of 2008 and 2009, the number and percentage of services received by consumers who: (1) had received Better Access services for the first time in that year (new consumers); and (2) who had used Better Access services prior to that year. The number and percentage of services received by new Better Access consumers was calculated for any Better Access item, and then within each of several Better Access provider groups. Broadly speaking Table 3.21 shows that, in each of 2008 and 2009, the majority of Better Access services are used by people who are receiving services for the first time in that year.

The data presented here suggest that, not only is Better Access attracting substantial numbers of new consumers in each successive year, but that these new consumers are also consuming a larger proportion of services than existing consumers. Having said that, it is acknowledged that the approach taken here uses a necessarily limited definition of a 'new' consumer. It may have included people who, although new to Better Access, are existing consumers of other parts of the mental health system. For example, people who are existing users of other Medicare mental health services, and people who are existing consumers of other mental health services or providers.Top of page

Table 3.20 Persons receiving MBS–subsidised Better Access services for the first time in 2008 and 2009, by provider type

Provider typeReceived services in 2008


Total N
Received services in 2008


N received services prior to 2008(a)
Received services in 2008


N received services for the first time in 2008
Received services in 2008


% received services for the first time in 2008
Received services in 2009


Total N
Received services in 2009


N received services prior to 2009(b)
Received services in 2009


N received services for the first time in 2009
Received services in 2009


% received services for the first time in 2009
% change from 2008 to 2009
Any Better Access item
953,161
304,696
648,465
68.0
1,130,384
486,089
644,295
57.0
-16.2
Any GP item
818,434
220,438
597,996
73.1
971,713
367,394
604,319
62.2
-14.9
Item 2710
555,479
71,207
484,272
87.2
636,908
144,569
492,339
77.3
-11.3
Consultant psychiatrist item
94,398
7,421
86,977
92.1
100,390
13,102
87,288
86.9
-5.6
Allied Health Providers
452,600
129,615
322,985
71.4
550,354
204,246
346,108
62.9
-11.9
Psychologists
430,928
123,106
307,822
71.4
520,588
191,838
328,750
63.1
-11.6
Clinical Psychologist
152,721
39,345
113,376
74.2
189,418
62,640
126,778
66.9
-9.8
General Psychologist
292,129
76,870
215,259
73.7
348,417
115,170
233,247
66.9
-9.1
Social Workers
20,319
4,155
16,164
79.6
28,276
7,198
21,078
74.5
-6.3
Occupational Therapists
3,719
801
2,918
78.5
5,103
1,432
3,671
71.9
-8.3

Data had regard to claims processed up to and including 30 April 2010.
(a) Prior to 2008 refers to the period 1 November 2006 to 31 December 2007
(b) Prior to 2009 refers to the period 1 November 2006 to 31 December 2008

Table 3.21 Number of services used by persons receiving MBS–subsidised Better Access services for the first time in 2008 and 2009, by provider type

Provider typeServices received in 2008 by...


Total persons
Services received in 2008 by...


Persons who received services prior to 2008(a)
Services received in 2008 by...


Persons who received services for the first time in 2008
Services received in 2008 by...


% received services for the first time in 2008
Services received in 2009 by...


Total persons
Services received in 2009 by...


Persons who received services prior to 2009(b)
Services received in 2009 by...


Persons who received services for the first time in 2009
Services received in 2009 by...


% received services for the first time in 2009
% change from 2008 to 2009
Any Better Access item
3,813,121
1,583,453
2,229,668
58.5
4,663,981
2,449,235
2,214,746
47.5
-18.8
Any GP item
1,377,036
488,896
888,140
64.5
1,659,366
773,764
885,602
53.4
-17.3
Item 2710
556,585
17,414
485,171
87.2
638,756
145,158
493,598
77.3
-11.4
Consultant psychiatrist item
102,474
8,766
93,708
91.4
109,687
15,451
94,236
85.9
-6.0
Allied Health Providers
2,333,466
792,016
1,541,450
66.1
2,891,713
1,243,343
1,651,370
57.0
-13.6
Psychologists
2,207,836
746,949
1,460,887
66.2
2,722,219
1,160,392
1,561,827
57.4
-13.3
Clinical Psychologist
793,290
245,983
547,307
69.0
1,000,129
385,351
614,778
61.5
-10.9
General Psychologist
1,414,546
438,249
976,297
69.0
1,722,090
662,293
1,059,797
61.5
-10.8
Social Workers
104,174
26,118
78,056
74.9
142,478
43,487
98,991
69.5
-7.3
Occupational Therapists
21,456
5,959
15,497
72.2
30,016
10,403
19,613
65.3
-9.5

Data had regard to claims processed up to and including 30 April 2010.
(a) Prior to 2008 refers to the period 1 November 2006 to 31 December 2007
(b) Prior to 2009 refers to the period 1 November 2006 to 31 December 2008