Better access to specialised psychiatric care for city dwellers

Hospital admissions for specialised psychiatric care in the cities outnumber such admissions in rural and remote areas, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Mental Health Services in Australia 1999-00 shows that the number of overnight psychiatric care admissions was 5.5 per 1,000 population in metropolitan areas-a higher rate than in rural and remote areas (4.4 and 2.4 per 1,000 respectively).

Report co-author David Braddock said these figures appeared to be related to availability of services, with most specialised psychiatric services in hospitals being in the cities.

'The pattern is reversed for general care patients who are admitted overnight for mental health-related conditions-the rates for rural and remote areas are much higher (5.1 and 7.3 per 1000 respectively) than in metropolitan areas (2.8 per 1000).

'With less specialised psychiatric care available, it seems that general units in hospitals undertake a greater role in caring for mental health patients in the bush.'

The report also shows that depression and schizophrenia continue to dominate mental health-related hospital admissions.

Depression accounted for the highest proportion of same-day mental health-related hospital admissions (31%) and for 17% of all overnight mental health-related stays. Schizophrenia accounted for the greatest number of days in hospital (about 27% of patient-days).

There were 171,548 psychiatric care admissions at Australian hospitals during 1999-00, and a further 95,000 general care admissions involving mental health-related conditions.

Although psychiatric care admissions account for only a small percentage of all hospital admissions, they account for 11% of all patient-days.

Report co-author David Braddock says there is evidence that general practitioners play a key role in the provision of mental health-related care.

'Our ongoing General Practice surveys show an estimated 10.1 million consultations per year with general practitioners for mental health-related conditions, especially for depression.'

Mental health-related problems account for almost 10% of all problems managed by general practitioners.

'At the moment we don't have data on patient activity in community mental health care settings, but the States and Territories have started to collect this information.

'This kind of data will give us a much clearer picture of the treatment of patients with mental health conditions across all care settings.'

Mental Health Services in Australia 1999-00 was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing as part of the National Mental Health Strategy.

19 April 2002


Further information: David Braddock, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1136
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032