Spending on mental health services exceeds $8.5 billion

14 February, 2017

Expenditure on mental health-related services in Australia continues to increase, according to new data released recently by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The information, available on the AIHW's Mental Health Services in Australia website, shows that over $8.5 billion was spent nationally on mental health services in 2014-15-$911 million more than in 2010-11.

'Spending increased in real terms from $343 per person in 2010-11 to $361 per person in 2014-15,' said AIHW spokesperson Matthew James.

Of the $8.5 billion spent in 2014-15, 59% was funded by state and territory governments, 36% by the Australian Government and 5% by private health insurance funds.

'Spending on state and territory specialised mental health services totalled $5.2 billion, and the majority of this spending was on public hospital services for admitted patients-$2.2 billion- followed by community mental health care services at $1.9 billion,' James said.

Specialised mental health services for admitted patients were provided by 160 public hospitals during 2014-15. These hospitals employed over 14,000 full-time-equivalent staff (FTE) and provided nearly 2.2 million patient care days. In addition, 62 private hospitals delivered specialised mental health services, providing almost 2,700 specialised mental health service beds.

'The number of direct care staff employed in public sector community mental health services has seen the biggest change over the last two decades, rising from about 3,400 FTE in 1992-93 to 10,600 in 2014-15,' James said.

'This change reflects increased investment by state and territory governments in community based mental health care.'

The release also updates information on mental health-related Medicare-subsidised services and PBS/RPBS subsidies. The Australian Government paid $1.1 billion ($46 per person) in benefits for Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services in 2015-16. In addition, $564 million ($24 per person) was spent on subsidised prescriptions under the PBS/RPBS.

New data is also available on the use of seclusion (the confinement of a patient in a room or area from which free exit is prevented) in public sector acute mental health hospital services. It shows an overall fall in the use of seclusion during hospital care. Considerable variation in the rates is seen between states and territories and the various service types.

This updated information is available online at https://mhsa.aihw.gov.au in the 'Expenditure on mental health services', 'Specialised mental health care facilities' and 'Admitted patient care' sections of the website.