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Many GPS are contributing to the fight against mental illness

01 May, 2007

A new report, Mental health services in Australia 2004-05, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 10.8% of all encounters with general practitioners (GPs) in 2004-05 were for the management of mental health problems -equivalent to an average of one such encounter for every two Australians.

'About 60% of those GP encounters were by females and almost 34% were for depression', said Jenny Hargreaves, senior executive in the Institute's Economics and Health Services Group.

The report describes many aspects of mental health-related services in Australia including their provision, where they were accessed, and the resources used in their delivery.

'It shows that males made up 53.5% of the over five million service contacts with public community mental health services and hospital outpatient services provided in 2004-05, and schizophrenia was the most common (39.9%) principal diagnosis reported.' Hargreaves said.

About 80% of the estimated 199,353 mental health-related separations for admitted patients were from public hospitals and more than half (58.6%) involved specialised psychiatric care.

There were 2,194 episodes of care involving overnight stays provided by residential mental health facilities during 2004-05.

In 2005-06 Medicare funded over two million psychiatrist services, an average of 98.6 per 1,000 people in Australia, at a cost to the Government of $221 million.

There were also 20.7 million claims processed for pharmaceutical benefits in respect of mental health-related medications. Between 2000-01 and 2005-06, the number of scripts processed increased at 2.2% per year with the greatest increase for antipsychotics and antidepressants (6.8% and 4.6% per year, respectively).

In 2004-05, there were 20 public psychiatric hospitals providing an average of 2,487 beds per day, with estimated expenditures totalling $528 million. A further 122 public acute hospitals had psychiatric wards or units providing an average of 3,450 beds.

In addition, 26 private hospitals provided 1,512 beds at an estimated expenditure of $168 million in 2004-05.

Government community and residential mental health facilities provided 1,226 beds in 2004-05, at a total expenditure of $985 million.

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