Mental health cuts will hurt GPs and patients
MASSIVE budget cuts in mental health programs have been slammed by experts, who say the cuts will hurt GPs as well as vulnerable patients.
A total of $289.6 million has been wiped from programs, including $29.7 million from the Better Access initiative and $15.5 million from the COAG mental health package for rural and remote areas.
Dr Tony Lian-Lloyd, a GP from Quorn in South Australia, said the funding cuts could mean practices would lose allied health professionals, who were crucial in dealing with patients with mental illnesses.
“We rely on allied health professionals at this practice. However, with this cut, who knows how long they will last.
“This will hasten the burnout of many doctors, including myself, who are already stretched to the limit.”
Professor Ian Hickie, clinical adviser to the beyondblue depression initiative, said patients and professionals would suffer, and those living and working in rural and deprived communities would suffer the most.
He called on the government to think carefully about how it invested in mental health programs, as past spending decisions had not always achieved the best results.
“The problem is, money was directed towards getting in more [staff], and then we ran out of [staff]. We needed to set up new organisations and have them get people and deliver their services,” he said.
Health minister Nicola Roxon said while there had been some “funding adjustments” from the Budget, spending on mental health was set to double to $783 million in the next four years.
Programs hit by cuts
- Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program: $188m
- Better Access initiative: $29.7m
- Rural and Remote Areas program: $15.5m
- Educational campaigns on illicit drugs and mental illness: $9.7m
- Non-Government Organisations’ programs: $6m
- Telephone counselling, self-help and web-based support: $2.5m
- Living in Community program: $0.5m