Evaluation of the Better Access initiative component C: analysis of the allied mental health workforce supply and distribution

3.1.1 Overall trends in the allied mental health workforce

Page last updated: September 2010

Trends in the DFTEs for the Better Access allied mental health workforce indicate that this workforce increased more quickly in the first 12 months of the initiative than it did for 2007-08 (Figure 3.1).

The strength of the increase is not surprising following the implementation of a new initiative. Overall, the total DFTE Better Access allied mental health workforce increased sixfold since November 2006. The number of DFTE psychologists utilising Better Access Items accounted for the largest majority of the total workforce in each year, and grew by approximately 511% over the two year period. The numbers of DFTE social workers and occupational therapists were small, relative to psychologists, although they experienced the highest rates of growth over the two year period, approximately 1,098% and 3,003% respectively (from a low base).

For each of the allied mental health occupations, the trends in the DFTE numbers were paralleled by the trends in the number of workers (headcount) providing Better Access services, over the two year period (see Figure 3.2 & Figure 3.3). However, the increasing rate of growth in the headcount of each of the allied mental health occupations was slightly less than their respective DFTE numbers. This is reflected by the increase in average hours spent providing Better Access services (on a weekly basis per provider) for each occupation over the two year period (see Table 2.3, Table 2.6 & Table 2.9); indicating that while the number of service providers was increasing each year, they were also delivering additional Better Access services.

Unlike the private (Better Access) sector workforce, the FTE share of psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists in the public allied mental health workforce were fairly stable over the first years of Better Access (Figure 3.4). Over the period from 2006 to 2008 the number of FTE psychologists and social workers both experienced an approximate growth rate of 8%; while occupational therapists experienced approximately a 13% growth rate. During this period, neither the total public sector allied mental health workforce nor any of the three occupational categories experienced a decrease in the number of FTEs. At this broad level of analysis, there appears to be no evidence to suggest that the implementation of the Better Access initiative has had a negative impact on the FTE numbers of health professionals in the public allied mental health workforce.

Figure 3.1 Private sector (DFTE) Better Access allied mental health workforce, for each occupational category, 2006-2008

Text equivalent of Figure 3.1 below. Private sector (DFTE) Better Access allied mental health workforce, for each occupational category, 2006-2008

Source: Medicare Australia. 2006-08 Medicare Provider Data and Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) data

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Text version of Figure 3.1

Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.

Trends for the Private sector (DFTE) Better Access allied mental health workforce are as follows:
  • Psychologists - steady rise from about 200 in 2006 to about 1,300 in 2008.
  • Social workers - gradual rise from about 0 in 2006 to about 60 in 2008.
  • Occupational therapists - slight rise from about 0 in 2006 to about 10 in 2008.
  • Total workforce - steady rise from about 200 in 2006 to about 1,370 in 2008.

Figure 3.2 Comparison of the Better Access psychology workforce (clinical, registered and total), DFTE and headcount, 2006-2008.

Text equivalent of Figure 3.2 below. Comparison of the Better Access psychology workforce (clinical, registered and total), DFTE and headcount, 2006-2008

Source: Medicare Australia. 2006-08 Medicare Provider Data and Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) data

Text version of Figure 3.2

Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.

Comparison of the Better Access psychology workforce, DFTE:
  • Registered psychologists - gradual rise from about 100 in 2006 to about 900 in 2008.
  • Clinical psychologists - gradual rise from about 100 in 2006 to about 500 in 2008.
  • Total psychologists - gradual rise from about 200 in 2006 to about 1,400 in 2008.
Comparison of the Better Access psychology workforce, headcount:
  • Registered psychologists - steady rise from about 3,200 in 2006 to about 7,000 in 2008.
  • Clinical psychologists - gradual rise from about 8,00 in 2006 to about 2,100 in 2008.
  • Total psychologists - steady rise from about 3,800 in 2006 to about 8,100 in 2008.
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Figure 3.3 Comparison of the Better Access social work and occupational therapy workforces, DFTE and headcount, 2006-2008.

Text equivalent of Figure 3.3 below. Comparison of the Better Access social work and occupational therapy workforces, DFTE and headcount, 2006-2008

Source: Medicare Australia. 2006-08 Medicare Provider Data and Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) data

Text version of Figure 3.3

Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.

Comparison of the Better Access social work and occupational therapy workforces, DFTE:
  • Social workers - gradual rise from about 0 in 2006 to about 70 in 2008.
  • Occupational therapists - very gradual rise from about 0 in 2006 to about 10 in 2008.
Comparison of the Better Access social work and occupational therapy workforces, headcount:
  • Social workers - steady rise from about 120 in 2006 to about 650 in 2008.
  • Occupational therapists - steady rise from about 20 in 2006 to about 180 in 2008.

Figure 3.4 Public sector (FTE) allied mental health workforce, for each occupational category, 2006-2008

Text equivalent below for Figure 3.4 Public sector (FTE) allied mental health workforce, for each occupational category, 2006-2008

Source: Mental Health Establishments: National Minimum Data Set, 2006-2008.

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Text version of Figure 3.4

Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.

Trends for the public sector (FTE) allied mental health workforce are as follows:
  • Psychologists - slow rise from about 1,600 in 2006 to about 1,700 in 2008.
  • Social workers - slow rise from about 1,500 in 2006 to about 1,550 in 2008.
  • Occupational therapists - slow rise from about 750 in 2006 to about 800 in 2008.
  • Total allied health workforce - steady rise from about 3,800 in 2006 to about 4,200 in 2008.