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

3.4 Proportion of the private (Medicare) allied mental health workforce relative to the total potential allied mental health workforce in Australia

Page last updated: September 2010

Since the commencement of Better Access there has clearly been an upward trend in the proportions of the total numbers (headcounts) of psychologists providing MBS services relative to the total potential psychology workforce in Australia, based on registration board data27 (Table 3.11). There are a couple of interesting features when comparing these workforces across time. Firstly, numbers in the potential Better Access psychology workforce have been increasing over time as indicated in the change in the proportions across three points of time. Secondly, the relative proportions of the psychology workforce in the private (Medicare) sector have increased substantially and rapidly over a short period since the implementation of Better Access. Specifically, one third of the potential Better Access psychology workforce in Victoria and SA were registered with Medicare (and using MBS Items) by June 2008. In WA and ACT, one in five psychologists were registered with Medicare. The proportions rise to between 20% and 35% by June 2008.

For social workers, the proportion providing Medicare services relative to the maximum potential supply of social workers in the country increased significantly, climbing to 9.5% by December 2008 (Table 3.12).28 By December 2008 the proportion of this workforce in Vic and NSW were greater than the national average, at 13.6% and 10.7% respectively. In contrast, the proportions of this workforce in the other states/territories were much smaller than the national average.

Data on the potential OT workforce were available for three states: Queensland, SA and WA. Despite data constraints, information about the OT workforce from these three states helps us to understand the extent to which OTs register with Medicare and use MBS Items. The maximum supply of the potential workforce has increased in all of these states since the implementation of Better Access (Table 3.10). A prominent feature of this workforce is that the proportion of OTs that are registered with Medicare against the potential workforce is very small, being less than 4% of the total potential workforce in each state (June 2008).

Table 3.10 Proportion of OTs registered with Medicare against the potential OT workforce (headcounts), 2006-2008

June 2006 June 2007 June 2008
QLD headcounts
1997
2143
2172
QLD %
1.5
2.4
3.9
SA headcounts
788
728
783
SA %
0.4
1.5
2.7
WA headcounts
1463
1542
1575
WA %
0.8
2.3
3.4

Sources: Medicare Australia. 2006-08 Medicare Provider Data and Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) data
State/territory Occupational Therapy Registration Boards data, 2006–2008

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Table 3.11 Proportion of psychologists registered with Medicare against the potential psychology workforce (headcounts), 2006-2008

June 2006June 2007June 2008
Total potential psychology workforce headcounts
21716
22912
23708
Total potential psychology workforce %
5.9
24.1
27.8
NSW headcounts
7716
8140
8513
NSW %
6.6
21.9
25.1
VIC headcounts
5731
5988
6215
VIC %
7.3
30.3
34.0
QLD headcounts
3154
3416
3484
QLD %
6.7
25.3
29.7
SA headcounts
1070
1136
1192
SA %
3.4
28.9
32.9
WA headcounts
2878
3002
3061
WA %
2.1
15.9
19.9
TAS headcounts
448
457
468
TAS %
5.4
21.4
25.4
ACT headcounts
719
773
775
ACT %
2.6
16.8
20.9

Sources: Medicare Australia. 2006-08 Medicare Provider Data and Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) data
State/territory Psychology Registration Boards data, 2006–2008

Table 3.12 Proportion of social workers registered with Medicare against the potential social worker workforce (headcounts), 2006-2008

June 2006June 2007June 2008
Total potential social work workforce headcounts
5791
5862
5714
Total potential social work workforce %
2.1
7.1
9.5
NSW headcounts
1606
1558
1481
NSW %
2.9
8.1
10.7
VIC headcounts
1659
1639
1546
VIC %
2.0
9.3
13.6
QLD headcounts
1173
1205
1144
QLD %
1.9
5.7
7.1
SA headcounts
521
515
469
SA %
1.0
5.2
7.5
WA headcounts
751
660
626
WA %
1.6
4.1
6.4
TAS headcounts
81
84
79
TAS %
0.5
5.9
6.2
ACT headcounts
203
203
196
ACT %
0.0
1.5
2.6
NT headcounts
81
94
79
NT %
0.0
2.4
3.8

Source: Medicare Australia. 2006-08 Medicare Provider Data and Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) data: Servicing Provider Data
Unpublished data, Australian Association of Social Workers, 2006-2008

Footnotes

27 The same categories of registration board data were used for calculations in this section, as was used in Section 2.2.1. See Table 1.5 for categories and Table 2.3 for numbers.
28 Note that the numbers used to calculate the potential Better Access social work workforce are the numbers registered with AASW, not those with mental health accreditation. The AASW membership numbers were the only ones provided that could be disaggregated by state/territory.