During the consultation process, stakeholders and interviewees were asked to comment about a number of aspects relating to the skills of the mental health workforce, and the nature of the way they work together under the Better Access initiative. Overall, providers and professional bodies did not believe that the Better Access initiative had promoted interdisciplinary primary mental health care. Providers from AHPs and medical professions identified a number of barriers to providing interdisciplinary care. These included:

  • absence of an MBS item for case conferencing limiting information sharing, integrated care planning and coordinated care;
  • confusion among AHPs about the confidentiality of patient information and the need for greater clarification on exchanging information between AHPs and GPs; and
  • limited understanding of the professional roles and capabilities between the different allied health professions, a factor perceived to be limiting referrals to social workers and occupational therapists and the provision of multidisciplinary care.
It was also noted by GPs, AHPs and public mental health providers that, although the public mental health system provided services to individuals with more acute, complex and/or chronic conditions than did the Better Access initiative, the two service systems complemented each other and that there was some commonality of patients. Services through the Better Access initiative were perceived as a valuable referral option for patients contacting, but not requiring services through, the public mental health system and also for post acute support for some individuals. Consumers and carers also perceived services through the Better Access initiative as important for many individuals with more complex and longer standing problems who may not have been able to access psychological therapies through the public mental health system.

The small area consultations and several consultations with AHPs in rural and regional areas reported that, in areas where public mental health services are not available or are more difficult to access, individuals with higher acuity and more complex care needs are being managed by GPs and AHPs through the Better Access initiative. Sometimes, this is in conjunction with ATAPS and other funding that is available.

At the time of the evaluation, Better Access specific training through the Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN) had only recently commenced. As such, the consultations did not identify any significant improvements in access to training for GPs and AHPs.