The use of existing data which were not collected for the purpose of evaluating the Better Access initiative meant that there were constraints on the extent to which causal relationships between Better Access and workforce change could be attributed. The only aspect of the supply and distribution of the workforce where this was possible was in evaluating the impact of Better Access on the private (Medicare) allied mental health workforce (Section 3.2). As a consequence, the evaluation has focused on identifying the impact of Better Access on the private (Medicare) allied mental health workforce; providing baseline data about the characteristics relating to the supply and distribution of the mental health workforce; and identifying emerging trends in the Better Access and public sector workforces. With only two full years of post-Better Access data, the analysis provides an excellent basis for ongoing monitoring and development. It is, however, too soon to make definitive statements about the impact of the initiative on the workforce.

To summarise, it was difficult to delineate the impact of Better Access on the supply and distribution of the allied mental health workforce, due to data limitations including:

  • The lack of precise data on the size of the potential workforce, requiring estimates to be derived from the available data;

  • The need to limit the scope of analysis in the private sector to the private (Medicare) sector, despite this being only a small proportion of the private services provided by the allied mental health workforce;

  • The lack of concordance between data sources regarding regional distribution, dates of collection points and measures of fulltime equivalence, requiring estimations to be developed based on the available data;

  • The lack of differentiation between clinical and registered psychologists, due to these categories being generated as Medicare provider categories rather than occupational categories;

  • Having too few data capture points to detect trends in the potential allied mental health workforce.
Measures were taken to compensate for the first three of these limitations, enabling the most rigorous evaluation of the impact of Better Access possible under the circumstances. It is anticipated that the establishment of the National Health Workforce Dataset (Health Workforce Australia) will provide a basis for addressing these data issues for future research.29

Footnotes

29 This dataset will not include social workers at this stage.