The Albanese government has come under fire for cutting in half the number of subsidised treatment sessions for mental health patients.
Health minister Mark Butler announced that free psychologist or allied mental health sessions through the Better Access program will be reduced from 20 to 10 in a matter of weeks.
Australians were able to claim 10 psychologist sessions on Medicare before the Covid-19 pandemic. Better Access temporarily increased this number to 20 sessions in August 2020.
The Albanese government has been criticised over a plan to cut subsidised psychologist sessions (pictured, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Health Minister Mark Butler)
Australians were able to claim 10 psychologist sessions on Medicare pre-pandemic before Better Access increased this to 20 in August 2020 (stock image)
But the health minister said the sessions had been cut after an evaluation from the University of Melbourne found they were not being accessed equally.
He claimed those from lower socioeconomic and rural areas as well as aged-care residents were missing out on sessions compared to other patients.
‘The evaluation I am publishing today considered the impact of those additional 10 sessions and found they drove a very big increase in the number of services in this sector generally,’ Mr Butler said on Monday.
‘But it found that those additional 10 aggravated existing wait lists and aggravated barriers to access, particularly by the groups I’ve mentioned (people in rural and low socio-economic areas).’
‘The evaluation found that all of the additional services went to existing patients and that the number of new patients who were able to get into the system and get access to psychology services actually declined by seven per cent.’
However, the ABC claimed the review of the program found that more than 10 sessions were needed for patients with mental health issues.
‘The additional 10 sessions should continue to be made available and should be targeted towards those with complex mental health needs,’ the review read.
It recommended that a review into a patient could be conducted after 10 sessions if 20 sessions are provided through the program.
Health minister Mark Butler announced that free psychologist sessions through the Better Access program would be halved and cited an evaluation that found sessions were not being accessed equally
A review of Better Health recommended that patients struggling with their mental health should have access to more than 10 psychologist sessions (stock image)
The Australian Psychological Society slammed the government over the decision to cut services for Australians needing help.
APS President Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe said: ‘The government commissioned Better Access evaluation released today found workforce shortages and location as key barriers to patient care which makes the axing of the additional sessions program harder to understand.’
‘This program safely gave many people telehealth or in-person psychological care for the first time in their lives, yet many patients will now have to ration or stop treatment altogether.
‘Just as people shouldn’t be asked to ration vital medicines like insulin, they shouldn’t have to ration mental health care,’ she added.