Spending on mental health services at $4.7 billion

The national recurrent expenditure on mental health services in 2006-07 was estimated to be $4.7 billion, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The national recurrent expenditure on mental health services in 2006-07 was estimated to be $4.7 billion, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

'Of this total, 62% ($2.9 billion) came from state and territory governments, 34% ($1.6 billion) from the Australian Government and the remaining 4% ($177 million) from private health insurance funds,' said Mr Gary Hanson of the AIHW's Mental Health Services Unit.

Funding increased by just over 5% per year on average between 1997-98 and 2006-07.

Funding by the state and territory governments and by the Australian government both increased by 5.3% per year.

'General practitioners are often a first contact point for people with mental health concerns,' Mr Hanson said.

An estimated 12 million GP-patient encounters in 2007-08 involved management of a mental health issue, with the number of encounters growing by an annual average of 4.4% since 2003-04.

The majority of these encounters were not claimed as Medicare mental health-specific items, and therefore are not included in the estimated national expenditure on mental health-related services.

Community mental health and hospital outpatient services provided close to 6 million mental health-related service contacts to mental health consumers in 2006-07, an increase of more than 5% from 2005-06.

According to the report, Mental health services in Australia 2006-07, there were 20 million mental health-related prescriptions subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2007-08 accounting for just over one in ten of all prescription claims.

The number of prescriptions decreased by 0.4% per year, on average, from 2003-04.

Spending on these mental health-related prescriptions was over $700 million with prescriptions for antipsychotics and antidepressants accounting for just over 90% of the total.

From 2002-03 to 2006-07, the number of beds in specialised psychiatric wards of public hospitals increased on average by just over 3% to around 4,200 beds, while over the same period, stand-alone public psychiatric hospitals beds decreased by 1.6% to just over 2,200 beds.

Estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing suggest that one in five Australians experienced symptoms of a mental disorder in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Thursday 27 August

Further information: Mr Gary Hanson, AIHW, 02 6244 1052, mob. 0407 915 851.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.