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Expenditure on mental health-related services in Australia has increased in recent years, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Mental Health Services in Australia, shows that over $8 billion was spent nationally on mental health services in 2013–14 in Australia—equivalent to $344 per person across the population. Of this $8 billion funding, 60% was provided by state and territory governments, 36% by the Australian Government and 4% by private health insurance funds. This distribution has remained relatively stable over the past five years.

Adjusted for inflation, the funding from the Australian Government for mental health-related services increased on average by 4.7% annually over the period 2009–10 to 2013–14. Funding from state and territory governments also increased over the same period, but by a smaller average annual amount (2.6%).

Spending on state and territory specialised mental health services totalled $4.9 billion for 2013–14.

‘The largest proportion of this state/territory government recurrent expenditure was spent on public hospital services for admitted patients ($2.1 billion), followed by expenditure on community mental health care services ($1.9 billion),’ said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

In 2013–14, the Australian Government spent an estimated $971 million in benefits for Medicare-subsidised mental health‑related services—this equated to 1 in 20 (5%) of all Medicare subsidies. There was also an estimated $753 million spent on subsidised prescriptions under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme/Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (making up 8.1% of all PBS/RPBS subsidies).

‘Expenditure on psychologist services made up the largest component of mental health-related Medicare subsidies (43%), and prescriptions for antipsychotics and antidepressants accounted for the majority of mental health-related PBS/RPBS expenditure during this period (57% and 36%, respectively)’ said Mr Beard.

Specialised mental health services for admitted patients were provided by 159 public hospitals during 2013–14. These facilities had 6,791 specialised mental health beds available, and provided care to admitted patients for over 2.1 million patient days. In addition, 63 private hospitals delivered specialised mental health services, providing 2,593 specialised mental health service beds.

There were 2,427 residential mental health service beds available during 2013–14, with almost two-thirds provided in government operated services. 

There were over 30,500 full-time-equivalent staff employed in state and territory specialised mental health care services in 2013–14, equating to 131 FTE staff per 100,000 people, with over half of these (51%) being nurses.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 2 February 2016

Further information: Mr Tim Beard, AIHW, mob. 0418 271 395

Full web update: Mental health services in Australia tranche 1 2016