The key findings from Chapter 3 are presented for each of the research questions explored:

What has been the rate of uptake of Better Access services overall?
What has been the rate of uptake of Better Access item groups?
What is the relative uptake of items with item groups?
What are the socio–demographic characteristics of Better Access consumers?
Have there been changes over time in the socio–demographic characteristics of consumers who have received Better Access services?
To what extent is Better Access providing services to 'new' consumers?

What has been the rate of uptake of Better Access services overall?

  • The age–standardised uptake rate of any MBS–subsidised Better Access item was 33.8 persons per 1,000 total population (3.4% of the total population or 710,840 persons) in 2007, rising to 44.5 persons per 1,000 in 2008 (4.4% of the total population or 951,454 persons), and further to 52.8 persons per 1,000 total population in 2009 (5.3% of the total population or 1,130,384 persons). That is, one in every 30 Australians received at least one Better Access service in 2007, one in every 23 did so in 2008, and one in every 19 did so in 2009.

  • Although the uptake of Better Access has continued to increase, the rate of growth has slowed. The increase in rates of overall Better Access uptake has slowed significantly from 13.3% per quarter in 2007 to 4.6% per quarter post–2007. In annual terms, Better Access uptake showed an annual increase of 31.7% between 2007 and 2008, and an annual increase of 18.7% between 2008 and 2009.

What has been the rate of uptake of Better Access item groups?

  • Most Better Access consumers (86.0%) received at least one GP Mental Health Treatment service. This amounted to 45.4 persons per 1,000 population in 2009. Uptake for the allied health Focussed Psychological Strategies items (17.8 per 1,000 in 2009) was greater than for Psychological Therapy Services items (8.9 per 1,000 in 2009) and Consultant Psychiatry items (4.7 per 1,000 in 2009).

  • Within the Focussed Psychological Strategies item group, uptake was considerably greater for items provided by general psychologists (16.4 per 1,000 in 2009) than those provided by social workers (1.3 per 1,000 in 2009) or occupational therapists (0.2 per 1,000 in 2009).

  • The GP Mental Health Treatment, Psychological Therapy Services and Focussed Psychological Strategies item groups have all shown significant positive growth over time since Better Access was introduced. Uptake of the Consultant Psychiatry item group has remained stable.

  • The rate of growth in uptake was substantially higher for young people aged 0–14 years than for all other age groups. Growth in uptake for people aged 0–14 years (96.1%) was 60% higher than the average for all Better Access consumers (58.2%).

  • Growth in uptake increased as remoteness increased. Growth among people in remote areas was 20% higher than the average for all Better Access consumers.

  • Growth in uptake increased as level of socioeconomic disadvantage increased. Growth among people in areas of greatest disadvantage was 20% above the average for all Better Access consumers.Top of page

What is the relative uptake of items with item groups?

  • Three of the six items with the highest level of uptake were the GP Mental Health Treatment items (2710, 2712 and 2713). The high uptake rate for item 2710 (GP Mental Health Treatment Plan) is consistent with its role as the main point of referral to other Better Access services.

  • The ratio of the rates for 2710 to 2712 (Review of a GP MH Treatment Plan) items was 4.6:1 in 2007, decreasing to 3.3:1 in 2008 and 3.1:1 in 2009.

  • Of consumers who received services under the Consultant Psychiatry items, approximately 80% used item 296 (Consultant Psychiatrist – Initial Consultation), reflecting the item's function in assessing consumers for appropriateness to receive other Better Access services.

  • Of consumers who received services from clinical psychologists under the Psychological Therapy Services items, virtually all (90%) used the 80010 (Service provided in rooms, 50+ minute consultation) item.

  • Of consumers who received services from other allied health professionals under the Focussed psychological therapies items, virtually all (approximately 90%) used the 80110 (Service provided in rooms, 50+ minute consultation) item provided by general psychologists.

What are the socio–demographic characteristics of Better Access consumers?

  • Uptake rates for any Better Access service increase with age, peaking among adults in the 25–34 year and 35–44 year age groups, then decrease with age thereafter.

  • Females use Better Access services to a greater extent than males, by a ratio of approximately 1.7:1. Only males aged 0–14 years use Better Access services at a higher rate than females.

  • The female:male ratio of uptake rates was between 1.7:1 and 1.8:1 in 2009 for the GP Mental Health Treatment, Psychological Therapy Services and Focussed Psychological Strategies item groups. The female:male ratio for Consultant Psychiatry items was considerably lower (1.2:1).

  • Young people showed the lowest uptake of GP and Consultant Psychiatry items, whereas older people showed the lowest uptake of Psychological Therapy Services and Focussed Psychological Strategies items.

  • For the GP and Focussed Psychological Strategies item groups, uptake rates were lowest for people residing in remote areas. For Consultant Psychiatry and Psychological Therapy Services items, rates showed a steady decrease across each category of geographical region from capital cities to remote areas.

  • Uptake rates for Psychological Therapy Services and, to a lesser extent, in the Consultant Psychiatry item groups decrease as levels of socio–economic disadvantage increase. In contrast, uptake rates for GP Mental Health Treatment and Focussed Psychological Strategies item groups were somewhat lower for persons residing in the most disadvantaged areas.

Have there been changes over time in the socio–demographic characteristics of consumers who have received Better Access services?

  • The rate of growth in uptake was substantially higher for young people aged 0–14 years than for all other age groups. Growth in uptake for people aged 0–14 years (96.1%) was 60% higher than the average across all Better Access consumers (58.6%).

  • Growth in uptake increased as remoteness increased. Growth among people in remote areas was 20% higher than the average across all Better Access consumers.

  • Growth in uptake increased somewhat as level of socioeconomic disadvantage increased. Growth among people in areas of greatest disadvantage was 10% above the average across all Better Access consumers.Top of page

To what extent is Better Access providing services to 'new' consumers?

  • The majority of people who received Better Access services in 2008 (68.0%) and 2009 (57.0%) were new consumers. That is, they had not used any Better Access services in preceding years.

  • When analysed according to provider type, the percentage of new consumers was highest for the Consultant Psychiatrist services (92.1% in 2008; 86.9% in 2009), followed by the allied health services (ranging between 73.7% to 79.5% in 2008, and 66.9% to 74.5% in 2009), followed by GP services (73.1% in 2008; 62.2% in 2009).

  • 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 9.8% for allied health provider services.

  • In each of 2008 and 2009, the majority of Better Access services were used by people who received services for the first time in that year. This suggests 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.