Date published: 
10 December 2020
Intended audience: 
General public
Covidsafe news item webtile

The Australian Government is expanding eligibility for the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (Better Access) initiative.

Aged care residents can access up to 20 individual psychological services each calendar year from 10 December 2020 to 30 June 2022.

This measure is in response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety COVID-19 special report recommendations. The measure will enable eligible General Practitioners (GPs), psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists to provide psychological services to aged care residents in a COVIDSafe way.  

To access Better Access sessions from a residential aged care facility, a GP will assess whether a person has a mental disorder. They will decide if a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan is appropriate, based on the person’s health care needs and circumstances. If a GP diagnoses someone with a mental disorder, the GP may:

  • prepare a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan
  • refer them to a psychiatrist who may prepare a psychiatrist assessment and management plan, taking into account COVIDSafe practices.

A GP or psychiatrist (referring practitioner) can refer a person for an initial course of treatment of up to six individual psychological sessions. This may include:

  • psychological assessment and therapy by a clinical psychologist
  • focussed psychological strategies by an allied mental health professional.

The referring practitioner decides on the number of allied mental health services that someone will be referred for.

If someone uses all 10 initial individual Better Access sessions in a calendar year, an additional 10 individual sessions are available in each calendar year until 30 June 2022 if required. The referring practitioner will decide if this is clinically appropriate for the person. A maximum of 20 individual Better Access sessions are available in each calendar year.

Read more about Mental health support for aged care residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.