Stakeholders at a government department level and a few GPs and NGOs reported perceived inequalities in access associated with the socio economic status of the community served. Poorer communities were perceived as less able to access the Better Access initiative services due to:

  • fewer GPs and AHPs providing services in these communities;

  • gap payments precluding access to AHPs (and in some instances GPs) and very few AHPs offering 'bulk billing';

  • limited public transport, in turn limiting access to services, both within the local area and to other areas where services are located; and

  • potentially a lower likelihood of individuals recognising and seeking help for a mental health problem.
Additional to the equity issues, state and territory health departments reported a need for reporting of the Better Access initiative service utilisation by local government area to better target the provision of public mental health services, to address inequities in access.

Although not noted by peak GP and AHP bodies, the variation in access related to poverty was highlighted in both the local consultations and consultations with some peak NGO organisations. The small local area consultations incorporated areas defined by Division of General Practice boundaries. As such, local providers were aware of and able to comment on any inequities in access to services at a local level.