From the descriptive analysis of the characteristics of the broader potential Better Access allied mental health workforce (Section 2.2), approximately two-thirds of psychologists and just over half of all mental health social workers and occupational therapists worked in the private sector in 2006 (Table 2.3, Table 2.7 and Table 2.10 respectively). In addressing concerns related to the extent to which the implementation of Better Access has depleted the numbers of allied mental health professionals in the public allied mental health sector, this section focuses on comparing the deemed full-time equivalent (DFTE) allied mental health workforce using Better Access Items to the full-time equivalent (FTE) allied mental health workforce in the public sector.24 Although the Better Access initiative was implemented in November 2006, the analysis of each of the Better Access allied mental health occupations in Section 3.1.1, Section 3.1.2 and Section 3.1.3 uses an extended, 2001 – 2008, to provide contextual information about patterns in the public sector mental health workforce prior to and after Better Access.
As explained in the methodology section, some caution is required when comparisons are made across data sources: the MHE: NMDS uses FTE based on average hours worked per week for each occupational category; while for the MBS, a DFTE (deemed FTE) has been estimated based on the recommended consultation times for the MBS Items and the average number of Items billed per week per occupational category. Despite these restrictions the figures presented are nevertheless interesting for their capacity to illustrate indicative trends in the allied mental health workforce.
Firstly, the analysis of the overall trends of the allied mental health workforce across the public and private (Better Access) sectors is discussed. Secondly, the trends between the two sectors are examined at a more detailed level, with analysis of each occupational category by state/territory and capital city/not capital city subdivisions. Finally, the comparison of the trends across the entire workforce for Australia as a whole is summarised.
24 For details on how the DFTE was calculated see Section 1.4.1