The Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (Better Access) initiative commenced in November 2006. The initiative aimed to improve the treatment and management of mental illness within the community (Dept Health and Ageing, nd), particularly for people with high prevalence mental disorders.
Better Access formed part of the Commonwealth component of the Council of Australian Governments' National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006-2011 (COAG 2006). It addresses the four outcomes outlined in the Plan, particularly outcomes 1 and 3:
- Reducing the prevalence and severity of mental illness in Australia;
- Reducing the prevalence of risk factors that contribute to the onset of mental illness and prevent longer term recovery;
- Increasing the proportion of people with an emerging or established mental illness who are able to access the right health care and other relevant community services at the right time, with a particular focus on early intervention; and
- Increasing the ability of people with a mental illness to participate in the community, employment, education and training, including through an increase in access to stable accommodation.
- General practitioners to participate in the early intervention, assessment and management of patients with mental disorders and to streamline access to appropriate psychological interventions in primary care;
- Private psychiatrists to see more new patients, and expand their role as specialists in backing up the primary health care sector;
- Psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists to be involved in treating patients with mental disorders as part of a coordinated program (via referral pathways) of primary care.