National mental health report 2013

2.5 Trends in private sector mental health services

Page last updated: 2013

Key messages:

  • There was significant growth in mental health care activity in private hospitals between 1992‑93 and 2010‑11. Bed numbers in specialist psychiatric units in private hospitals increased by 40%, the number of patient days increased by 106%, and the number of full‑time equivalent staff increased by 87%. Expenditure by private hospital psychiatric units grew by 142% between 1992‑93 and 2010‑11.
  • Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) expenditure on mental health services increased significantly with the introduction of the Better Access program. Better Access provided a rebate on the MBS for selected services provided by general practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists. In 2006‑07, MBS expenditure on mental health services had reached a low of $474 million. In 2007‑08, the first full year of Better Access, there was a sharp increase to $583 million, and by 2010‑11 the overall MBS mental health specific expenditure figure rose to $852 million, accounting for 35% of overall Australian Government mental health spending.
  • In 1992‑93, services provided by psychiatrists and general practitioners accounted for all of the MBS expenditure on mental health services. By 2010‑11, MBS‑subsidised services provided by medical practitioners were complemented by services delivered by clinical psychologists, registered psychologists and other allied health professionals who accounted for 41% of MBS mental health specific expenditure.
  • In 2011‑12, 1.6 million people received mental health services subsidised by the Medicare system, some from several providers. In total, 7.9 million mental health services were provided in that year.
Reform of public sector mental health services was the principal focus of the National Mental Health Strategy in its first five years. Services provided outside the public sector were not originally considered within scope, but governments have become increasingly aware of the importance of partnerships with service providers operating in Australia's private sector.
The private sector plays a key role in overall service delivery. In 2010‑11, the sector:
  • provided 20% of total psychiatric beds
  • engaged or employed approximately 17% of Australia’s health professional workforce delivering mental health services and
  • provided services to eight out of every 10 people who were recorded as receiving mental health specific health services.
This section reviews the provision of services provided through the private sector, both in private hospital settings and through services primarily funded under the Australian Government Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).