Data source and key concepts

National Mental Health Establishments Database

Collection of data for the Mental Health Establishments (MHE) National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) began on 1 July 2005, replacing the Community Mental Health Establishments NMDS and the National Survey of Mental Health Services. The main aim of the development of the MHE NMDS was to expand on the Community Mental Health Establishments NMDS and replicate the data previously collected by the National Survey of Mental Health Services. The National Mental Health Establishments Database is compiled as specified by the MHE NMDS.

The scope of the MHE NMDS includes all specialised mental health services managed or funded, partially or fully, by state or territory health authorities. Specialised mental health services are those with the primary function of providing treatment, rehabilitation or community health support targeted towards people with a mental disorder or psychiatric disability. These activities are delivered from a service or facility that is readily identifiable as both specialised and serving a mental health care function.

The MHE NMDS data are reported at a number of levels: state, regional, organisational and individual mental health service unit. The data elements at each level in the NMDS collect information appropriate to that level. The state, regional and organisational levels include data elements for revenue, grants to non-government-organisations and indirect expenditure. The organisational level also includes data elements for salary and non-salary expenditure, numbers of full-time-equivalent staff and mental health consumer and carer worker participation arrangements. The individual mental health service unit level comprises data elements that describe the function of the unit. Where applicable, these include target population, program type, number of beds, number of accrued patient days, number of separations, number of service contacts and episodes of residential care. In addition, the service unit level also includes salary and non-salary expenditure and depreciation.

Data Quality Statements for National Minimum Data Sets (NMDSs) are published annually on the Metadata Online Registry (METeOR). Statements provide information on the institutional environment, timelines, accessibility, interpretability, relevance, accuracy and coherence. Refer to the Mental health establishments NMDS 2018-19: National Mental Health Establishments Database, 2021; Quality Statement .

Data validation

Data presented in this publication are the most current data for all years presented. The validation process rigorously scrutinises the data for consistency in the current collection and across historical data. The validation process applies hundreds of rules to the data to test for potential issues. Jurisdictional representatives respond to each issue before the data are accepted as the most reliable current data collection. This process may highlight issues with historical data. In such cases, historical data may be adjusted to ensure data are more consistent. Therefore, comparisons made to previous versions of Mental health services in Australia publications should be approached with caution.

New South Wales CADE and T-BASIS services

All New South Wales Confused and Disturbed Elderly (CADE) 24-hour staffed residential mental health services were reclassified as specialised mental health non-acute admitted patient hospital services, termed Transitional Behavioural Assessment and Intervention Service (T-BASIS), from 1 July 2007. All data relating to these services have been reclassified from 2007–08 onwards, including number of services, number of beds, staffing and expenditure. Comparison of data over time should therefore be approached with caution.

New South Wales HASI Program

New South Wales has been developing the Housing Accommodation Support Initiative (HASI)since it was established in 2002. This model of care is a partnership program between NSW Ministry of Health, Housing NSW and the non-government organisation (NGO) sector that provides housing linked to clinical and psychosocial rehabilitation services for people with a range of levels of psychiatric disability.

More recently, in 2016, Community Living Supports (CLS) commenced to support more people with severe mental illness to access the same type of support provided in HASI.

Both HASI and CLS are reported as Specialised mental health service—supported mental health housing places. These programs are out of scope as Residential mental health care services

Rate calculations

Calculations of rates for target populations are based on age-specific populations as defined by the MHE NMDS metadata and outlined below:

  • General services: persons aged 18–64
  • Child and adolescent services: persons aged 0–17
  • Youth services: persons aged 16–24
  • Older persons: persons aged 65 and over
  • Forensic services: persons aged 18 and over.

As the ages included in the target population groups overlap, the rates for the target populations cannot be summed to generate the total rate.

Crude rates were calculated using the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated resident population (ERP) at the midpoint of the data range (for example, rates for 2018–19 data were calculated using ERP at 31 December 2018). Historical rates have been recalculated using revised ERPs, as detailed in the online technical information.

Private Health reporting

Private Health Establishments Collection

From 1992–93 to 2016–17 (excluding 2007–08) the ABS conducted a census of all private hospitals licensed by state and territory health authorities and all freestanding day hospitals facilities approved by the Department of Health. As part of that census, data on the staffing, finances and activity of these establishments were collected and compiled in the Private Health Establishments Collection. Additional information on the Private Health Establishments Collection can be obtained from the ABS publication Private hospitals, Australia (ABS 2018).

The data definitions used in the Private Health Establishments Collection are largely based on definitions in the National Health Data Dictionary (NHDD) published on the AIHW’s Metadata Online Registry (METeOR) website (AIHW 2015). The ABS defines private psychiatric hospitals as those licensed or approved by a state or territory health authority and which cater primarily for admitted patients with psychiatric, mental or behavioural disorders (ABS 2018). This is further defined as those hospitals providing 50% or more of the total patient days for psychiatric patients. This definition can be extended to include specialised units or wards in private hospitals, consistent with the approach in the public sector. For further technical information, see the Private psychiatric hospital data section of the National Mental Health Report 2013 (DoH 2013).

Caution is required when comparing the ABS data for 2011–12 onwards to earlier years because the survey was altered in 2010–11 such that psychiatric units could no longer be separately identified from alcohol/drug treatment units. Therefore, the data for beds, patient days, separations and staffing from 2011–12 onwards are estimates based on reported 2010–11 data and trends observed in previous years. Data from the Private Mental Health collection suggest that these data may be underestimates.

The Private Health Establishments Collection was discontinued in 2016–17.

Private Psychiatric Hospitals Data Reporting and Analysis Service

The Australian Private Hospitals Association Private Psychiatric Hospitals Data Reporting and Analysis Service (PPHDRAS), previously known as the Private Mental Health Alliance Centralised Data Management Service (PMHA CDMS), was launched in Australia in 2001 to support private hospitals with psychiatric beds to routinely collect and report on a nationally agreed suite of clinical measures and related data for the purposes of monitoring, evaluating and improving the quality of and effectiveness of care. The PPHDRAS works closely with private hospitals, health insurers and other funders (e.g. Department of Veterans’ Affairs) to provide a detailed quarterly statistical reporting service on participating hospitals’ service provision and patient outcomes.

The PPHDRAS fulfils two main objectives. Firstly, it assists participating private hospitals with implementation of their National Model for the Collection and Analysis of a Minimum Data Set with Outcome Measures. Secondly, the PPHDRAS provides hospitals and private health funds with a data management service that routinely prepares and distributes standard reports to assist them in the monitoring and evaluation of health care quality. The PPHDRAS also maintains training resources for hospitals and a database application which enables hospitals to submit de-identified data to the PPHDRAS. The PPHDRAS produces an annual statistical report. In 2018–19, the PPHDRAS accounted for 96% of all private psychiatric beds in Australia (PPHDRAS 2020).

From 2017–18, all private hospital data is sourced from the Private Psychiatric Hospitals Data Reporting and Analysis Service (PPHDRAS). Data on expenditure and staffing (Full Time Equivalent) are not collected in PPHADRAS.

Australian Government expenditure on mental health-related services

The Australian Government Department of Health annually compiles the total Australian Government expenditure on mental health-related services. This practice was initiated in 1992–93 for publication in the National Mental Health Report which continued through to 2013 as the final publication year, and subsequently incorporated in related reports. Estimated Australian Government expenditure reported in table EXP.31 of this report covers only those areas of expenditure that have a clear and identifiable mental health purpose. A range of other expenditure, which may be either directly or indirectly related to the provision of support for people affected by mental illness, is not covered in this table. Broadly, this covers:

  • programs and services principally targeted at providing assessment, treatment, support or other assistance to people affected by mental ill health
  • population-level programmes that have as their primary aim the prevention of mental illness or the improvement of mental health and well-being
  • research with a mental health focus.

Expenditure that can be directly linked to mental health service provision, but not counted in the Australian Government spending estimates includes:

  • An estimated mental health share of Australian Government payments made to states for the running of public hospitals provided through the non-specific 'base grants' provided to states and territories under the former:
    • Medicare Agreements (1993–98)
    • Australian Health Care Agreements (1998–03, 2003–09)
    • National Healthcare Agreements (2009–2012)
    For the years indicated, because most state and territory mental health services were delivered through public hospitals, and made up about 10% of state-run health services, it is reasonable to assume they benefited from Australian Government funding contributions. However, estimates have not been included in reporting for historical reasons – principally because payments were not specifically tagged for mental health purposes and therefore fell outside the definition of ‘mental health specific’ services when decisions were made about how Australian Government funding contributions would be attributed across the two levels of government.
  • From 2012–13, Australian Government contributions for state and territory public hospital services paid under the former Medicare Agreements, Australian Health Care Agreements and National Healthcare Agreements were replaced by new arrangements under the National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA). These arrangements include grants and activity-based payments specifically tied to the operation of specialist mental health services delivered by state and territory-managed public hospitals. While the quantum of funding made for mental health specific services under the NHRA is significant and identifiable, expenditure of those funds continues to be attributed to states and territories on the basis of their role as system managers of Australia’s public hospital services. Current estimates available to the Department of Health, based on public reports of the National Health Funding Body indicate that mental health specific payments made by the Australian Government under the NHRA in 2018–19 totalled $1.79 billion.
  • From 2006–07, the costs of GP-provided mental health care delivered with MBS general consultation items rather than the mental health specific items introduced to the MBS in November 2006. See section ‘Medicare Benefits Schedule—general practitioners’ below for further details.
  • An estimated mental health share of Australian Government payments to states for sub-acute mental health services made under the National Partnership Agreement – Improving Public Hospital Services (2009–2014). Although mental health sub-acute beds represented 16% of the growth funded under the Agreement, programme specific expenditure was not tracked under the NPA reporting arrangements preventing mental health estimates being distinguished from payments for other categories of subacute beds. As a broad estimate however, the mental health component of the Agreement represented approximately $175 million over the period 2010–11 to 2013–14.
  • Commonwealth subsidies paid to nursing homes and hostels provided for mental health-related care in nursing homes.
  • All administrative overheads associated with administration of the mental health items within the MBS and PBS (Note: administrative costs associated with the Department of Health's mental health policy and program management areas are included).

Costs of mental health-related costs for support packages delivered under the National Disability Insurance Scheme are also currently excluded from estimates of Australian Government expenditure. A staged implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) began in July 2013. People with a psychiatric disability who have significant and permanent functional impairment are eligible to access funding through the NDIS. In addition, people with a disability other than a psychiatric disability, may also be eligible for funding for mental health-related services and support if required. These costs are expected to be significant at full NDIS scheme roll-out.

In addition, the Australian Government provides significant support to people affected by mental illness through income security provisions and other social and welfare programs. Consistent with the focus on mental health specific expenditure, these costs have been excluded from the analysis.

The following detailed notes on how estimates specific to Australian Government mental health specific expenditure have been revised in consultation with the Department of Health, building on those described in Appendix 11 of the National Mental Health Report 2010 (DoHA 2010).

Mental health-specific payments to states and territories

For years up to 2008–09, this category covers specific payments made to states and territories by the Australian Government for mental health reform under the Medicare Agreements 1993–98, and Australian Health Care Agreements 1998–2003 and 2008–09. From July 2009 the Australian Government provided Specific Purpose Payments (SPP) to state and territory governments under the National Healthcare Agreement (NHA) that do not specify the amount to be spent on mental health or any other health area. Therefore, specific mental health funding cannot be identified under the NHA. The National Health Reform Agreement came into effect in 2011 and builds on the principles and objectives of the NHA.

From 2008–09 onwards, the amounts include:

  • National Partnership Agreement—National Perinatal Depression Plan—Payments to States, ending 30 June 2015;
  • National Partnership Agreement—Supporting Mental Health Reform, commencing 2011–12; and
  • National Partnership Agreement—Improving Health Services in Tasmania (Innovative flexible funding for mental health), commencing 2012–13.

Nil payments are shown from 2016–17 as all three National Partnerships were completed by 2015–16.

For 2018–19 the amounts shown include;

  • Project Agreement for Suicide Prevention; and
  • Project Agreements for the Community Health and Hospitals Program initiatives for Eating Disorder Treatment Centres in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, and Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in the Australian Capital Territory.

The expenditure reported here excludes payments to states and territories for the development of subacute mental health beds made under Schedule E of the National Partnership Agreement - Improving Public Hospital Services, which totalled $175 million over the period 2010–11 to 2013–14. Mental-health specific payments cannot be separately identified from payments for other categories of subacute beds made to states and territories.

The data under this item do not include Department of Veterans’ Affairs payments to states and territories for public hospital mental health services delivered to veterans and other eligible recipients. These costs are included under the item ‘National programs and initiatives (DVA managed)’.

National program and initiatives (Department of Health managed)

This category of expenditure includes the following programs and activities:  

Initiatives funded through national mental health reform funding provided under special appropriations linked to the Australian Health Care Agreements (excluding amounts reported against Mental health specific payments to states and territories above).

  • For years up to 2005–06, this covers the following categories of Australian Government spending:
    • National Mental Health Program
    • National Depression Initiative (beyondblue)
    • More Options Better Outcomes (ATAPS)
    • Kids Helpline — one off grant 2003–04
    • Youth mental health (headspace)
    • Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma
    • OATSIH Social & Emotional Wellbeing Action Plan
    • Departmental costs.
  • From 2006–07 onwards, programs include the above plus new Department of Health-administered measures funded by the Australian Government under the COAG Action Plan on Mental Health 2006 (excluding MBS expenditure through Better Access) and additional measures introduced in subsequent Federal Budgets. Programs added to the category are:
    • Alerting the Community to Links between Illicit Drugs and Mental Illness
    • New Early Intervention Services for Parents, Children and Young People
    • Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists, GPs - Education and Training component
    • New Funding For Mental Health Nurses (Mental Health Nurse incentive program)
    • Support for Day to Day Living program
    • Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas
    • Improved Services for People with Drug and Alcohol Problems and Mental Illness
    • Funding for Telephone Counselling, Self-help and Web based Support Programmes
    • Mental Health Support for Drought Affected Communities Initiative
    • Additional Education Places, Scholarships and Clinical Training in Mental Health - Scholarships and Clinical Training components only
    • Mental Health in Tertiary Curricula
    • National Perinatal Depression initiative (excluding mental health specific payments to states and territories include above)
    • Expansion of Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centres
    • Partners In Recovery Program
    • Leadership in Mental Health Reform.

Some of these programs were time limited and do not apply to all data presented in this section.

More recently, there has been a consolidation of Department of Health Mental Health Program funding into a reduced set of categories, arising largely from the Australian Government response to the 2014 National Mental Health Commission Review of Mental Health Programs and Services. Direct spending on mental health related programs is split into five broad program areas: national leadership; primary mental health care services; promotion, prevention and early intervention; psychosocial support; and suicide prevention (see below). Over half of the Mental Health Program funding is provided to Primary Health Networks to plan and commission mental health services at a regional level.

Note also that the category excludes expenditure on the National Suicide Prevention Program which is reported separately in the relevant expenditure tables of Australian Government spending. While managed by the Department of Health this is reported separately.

Expenditure reported under the item 'Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing programmes' has previously been reported under 'National programs and initiatives (Department of Health managed)'. This expenditure is now separately reported following the transfer of the former OATSIH Social and Emotional Wellbeing program to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Adjustments have been made to all years.

National program and initiatives (DSS managed)

Expenditure on DSS (previously FaHCSIA) managed programs commenced with three measures introduced in 2006–07 through the COAG Action Plan on Mental Health (Personal Helpers and Mentors, Mental Health Respite, Family Mental Health Support Services). Subsequently a number of additional new measures have been added from Federal Budgets that are managed through the DSS portfolio and are included in expenditure reporting ('A Better Life', 'Carers and Work', and 'Individual Placement and Support Trial'). DSS has advised that, from 2016–17, two programs (Personal Helpers and Mentors, Mental Health Respite Care) began transitioning to the NDIS, with full transition being completed by 2020. Expenditure reported for these programs in 2016–17 and 2017–18 is inclusive of funding transferred to the NDIS. Expenditure previously reported by DSS for 2016–17 excluded NDIS transitioning program expenditure but this was amended for the 2017–18 report.

National programs and initiatives (DVA managed)

Reported expenditure includes Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme expenditure, Repatriation Medical Benefits expenditure on general practitioners, psychiatrists and allied health providing mental health care, payment for mental health care provided in public and private hospitals for veterans, grants to the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health and expenditure on the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service and related mental health programs. Note that estimated expenditure on mental health-related Pharmaceuticals includes the costs of anti-dementia drugs for years up to and including to 2009–10 but these have been removed for subsequent years.

DVA provided the following information in respect of its mental health related expenditure in 2018–19.

Data Source EXP.1: Department of Veterans' Affairs mental health expenditure, 2018–19

  2018–19 ($M) (a)
Private hospitals (b)(c)(d) 64.7
Public hospitals (b) 39.6
Consultant psychiatrists 28.5
Open Arms (previously Veterans and Veterans' Family Counselling Service) 53.0
Pharmaceuticals(e) 14.4
Private psychologists and allied health 12.7
General practitioners 19.3
Phoenix Australia (previously Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health) 2.0
Veterans' mental health care—improving access for younger veterans
Other programs 4.3
Total 238.6

(a) Expenditure is indicative as not all data sets are fully complete. Small variations may be expected over time.

(b) Based only on payments made for patients classified to Major Diagnostic Category (MDC) 19 (Mental Diseases and Disorders) under the Australian Refined Diagnosis Related Groups (AR-DRG) classification system. Excludes payments made for patients classified to MDC 20 (Alcohol/drug use and alcohol/drug induced organic mental disorders).

(c) Private hospital figure includes payments to the hospital only (i.e. any other payments during these episodes such as payments to doctors have been excluded).

(d) DVA depends on submitted Hospital Casemix Protocol data from private hospitals and Diagnostic Procedure Combinations to obtain correct MDC and diagnosis information. When this information is not available (e.g. provided by hospitals on a quarterly basis and most recent quarter’s data not yet received) then an understatement can occur in reporting. For this report, and only in relation to private psychiatric facilities, billing item codes have been used to identify and include mental health data in this category.

(e) Excludes anti-dementia drugs.

National Mental Health Commission

The Commission commenced operation in January 2012. Source data for 2018–19: NMHC Annual Report 2018–19, Pg. 33.

Department of Defence-funded programs

Expenditure covers a range of mental health programs and services delivered to ADF personnel, as of 2009–10 onwards; data for prior years is unavailable. Increased expenditure over the period reflects, in part, increased accuracy of data capture. Details of the ADF Mental Health Strategy are available from the Defence website.

The Department provided the following information in respect of its mental health related expenditure in 2018–19.

Data Source EXP.2: Department of Veterans Affairs mental health expenditure, 2018–19

  2018–19 ($M)
JHC Direct Mental Health Program and Implementation Costs (a) 2.5
Mental Health Personnel Costs (b) 6.8
FFS Garrison Psychology Services 13.5
FFS Garrison Psychiatrist Services (c) 5.0
Mental Health Treatment Programs 8.7
Contracted General Practitioner Costs (d) 7.0
Contracted Mental Health Professionals (e) 13.7
MIMS Dispensed Therapeutic Classification Drugs (f) 0.4
Total 57.6

(a) JHC Direct Mental Health Program and Implementation Costs includes ASL Services. The FY 2018–19 expense is higher than usual due to Research & Development Contract.

(b) FY 18-19 personnel costs includes both APS and ADF MH personnel (incl. GPs) working in Garrison Health. This is calculated using the average FY 17-18 MH personnel costs plus 2.5%.

(c) Mental Health Treatment Programs data capture commenced with ADF Health Services contract implementation in FY 2012–13.

(d) Represents the methodology whereby 10% of a Contracted General Practitioners consultations relate to mental health.

(e) Contracted Mental Health Professionals for FY 2009–10 to FY 2011–12 was coded into a generic Health Contractor GL account and therefore no costs could be identified.

(f) Data collection processed refined to include data from Pharmaceutical Integrated Logistic System (PILS) dispensing records from FY 2018–19.

National Suicide Prevention Program

This program commenced in 1995–96 as the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy but was broadened in later years. Reported expenditure includes all Australian Government allocations made under the national program, including additional funding made available under the COAG Action Plan and subsequent Federal Government Budgets. Changes in administrative arrangements and financial reporting make the estimates from 2015–16 not directly comparable to previous years. Components of the National Suicide Prevention Program are based on estimated expenditure to as closely as possible match the former methodology.

Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing programs

This expenditure refers to two programs:

  • The OATSIH Social & Emotional Wellbeing Action Plan program that commenced in 1996–97 following the Bringing Them Home report on the stolen generation of Indigenous children. Up to 2012–13 this program was managed by the Department of Health and rolled into the reporting category ‘National program and initiatives (Department of Health managed)’. As part of a realignment of responsibility for indigenous affairs, the program was transferred to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2013–14.
  • The measure titled ‘Improving the Capacity of Health Workers in Indigenous Communities’ funded under the COAG Action Plan in 2006–07. This measure ceased in 2010–11.

In previous years’ reporting, expenditure on these programmes was included under ‘National program and initiatives (Department of Health managed) ‘. From 2013–14, relevant expenditure is now reported separately, with appropriate adjustments to previous years.

Medicare Benefits Schedule—psychiatrists

Reported expenditure refers to benefits paid for all services by consultant psychiatrists processed in each of the index years. Data exclude payments made by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs under the Repatriation Medical Benefits Schedule which are reported in the item National programs and initiatives (DVA managed).

Medicare Benefits Schedule—general practitioners

Reported expenditure includes data for the Medicare-subsidised Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the MBS initiative described above and in the Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services section. Expenditure on GP mental health care is based solely on benefits paid against MBS mental health specific GP items, which are predominantly the Better Access GP mental health items plus a small number of other items that were created in the years preceding the introduction of the Better Access initiative. This estimate of mental health-related GP costs is conservative because it does not attempt to assign a cost to the range of GP mental health work that is not billed as a specific mental health item.

As the Better Access items were introduced in November 2006, the 2006–07 data do not represent a full financial year for these specific items. The data for this item before November 2006 were estimated to be 6.1% of total MBS benefits paid for GP attendances, based on data and assumptions as detailed in the National Mental Health report 2010 (DoHA 2010). To incorporate these changes, GP expenditure reported for 2006–07 was based on total MBS benefits paid against these new items specific to mental health, plus 6.1% of total GP benefits paid in the period preceding the introduction of the new items (July to November 2006). For future years, all expenditure on GP mental health care is based solely on benefits paid against MBS Better Access mental health items, plus a small number of other items that were created in the years preceding the introduction of the Better Access initiative. The latter group includes items that may be claimed by other medical practitioners. This provides a significantly lower expenditure figure than obtained using the 6.1% estimate of previous year because it does not attempt to assign a cost to the range of GP mental health work that is not billed as a specific Better Access item. Comparisons of GP mental health related expenditure reported in Table EXP.19 prior to 2007–08 with subsequent years are therefore not valid as the apparent decrease reflects the different approach to counting GP mental health services. Data exclude Repatriation Medical Benefits expenditure on general practitioner mental health care which is included in the item National programs and initiatives (DVA managed).

Medicare Benefits Schedule—psychologists/allied health

Expenditure refers to MBS benefits paid for services provided by clinical psychologists, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists approved by Medicare, for items introduced through the Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative on 1 November 2006. Note that these items commenced 1 November 2006 and were not available for the full 2006–07 period. MBS benefits paid in relation to a small number of allied health items introduced in 2004 under the Enhanced Primary Care program are also included, but these represent less than 1% of the overall expenditure reported.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Refers to all Australian Government benefits for psychiatric medication in each of the index years, defined as drugs included in the following classes of the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Drug Classification System: antipsychotics; anxiolytics; hypnotics and sedatives; psychostimulants; and antidepressants. In addition, payments include Clozapine dispensed in public hospitals under the Highly Specialised Drug program and funded separately through special arrangements prior to December 2013. The amounts reported exclude payments made by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs under the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule which are included in the item National programs and initiatives (DVA managed).

Private Health Insurance Premium Rebates

Estimates of the ‘mental health share’ of Australian Government Private Health Insurance Rebates are derived from a combination of sources and based on the assumption that a proportion of Australian Government outlays designed to increase public take up of private health insurance have subsidised private psychiatric care in hospitals and other services paid by private health insurers. For illustrative purposes, the methodology underpinning these estimates is described below, sourced from Appendix 11 of the National Mental Health Report 2010 (DoHA 2010).

In 1997, the Australian Government passed the Private Health Insurance Incentives Act. This introduced the Private Health Insurance Incentives Scheme (PHIIS) effective from 1 July 1997. Under the PHIIS, fixed-rate rebates were provided to low and middle-income earners with hospital and/or ancillary cover with a private health insurance fund. Those rebates could be taken in the form of reduced premiums (with the health funds being reimbursed by the Australian Government out of appropriations) or as income tax rebates, claimable after the end of the income year. On 1 January 1999, the means-tested PHIIS was replaced with a 30% rebate on premiums, which is available to all persons with private health insurance cover. As with the PHISS, the 30% rebate could be taken either as a reduced premium (with the health funds being reimbursed by the Australian Government) or as an income tax rebate.

The combined Australian Government outlays under the two schemes, and the estimated amounts spent on private hospital care for 2018–19 are as follows (current prices):

Data Source EXP.3: Estimated amounts spent on private hospital care for 2018–19

  2018–19 ($M)
(A) Total Australian Government outlays on private health insurance subsidies 5,924
(B) Estimated component of Australian Government private health insurance subsidies spent on hospital care 3,332

Source: AIHW 2020.

Estimation of the ‘mental health share’ of the amounts shown at (B) is based on the proportion of total private hospital revenue accounted for by psychiatric care. This assumes that if psychiatric care provided by the private hospital sector accounts for x% of revenue, then x% of the component of the Australian Government private health insurance subsidies spent by health insurance funds in paying for private hospital care is directed to psychiatric care. The estimates provided by this approach are shown below (current prices):

A new element introduced from 2015–16 includes an estimate of the PHI Premium Rebates contribution to ancillary benefits paid by private health insurers for private psychologists. All years have been adjusted to include this component.

The previous method for estimating the private hospital activity and revenue relied on data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics through its former Private Health Establishment Collection (PHEC) which was discontinued in 2016–17. Commencing 2017–18, the estimate is based on the Private Psychiatric Hospitals Data Reporting and Analysis Service (PPHDRAS), a collection jointly funded by the Australian Private Hospitals Association and the Australian Government Department of Health, complemented by data from the Department's Private Hospital Data Bureau.

Data Source EXP.4: Estimated mental health share of amounts spent on private hospital care, 2018–19

  2018–19 ($M)
Estimated component of Australian Government private health insurance subsidies spent on hospital care 3,332
Per cent of total private hospital revenue earned through the provision of psychiatric care 4.8%
Estimated ‘mental health share’ of Australian Government private health insurance subsidies spent on hospital care 159.3


Research expenditure represents the value of mental health related grants administered by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) during the relevant year. Data were provided by the NHMRC. Minor amendments have been made to years preceding 2017–18.

Medicare Benefits Schedule data

Refer to the data source section of the Medicare services section for more information.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data

Refer to the data source section of the Mental health-related prescriptions section.

Population data

Population estimates used to calculate population rates were sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Expenditure on mental health services

Key concept Description
Average cost per patient day

Average cost per patient day is determined by dividing the total recurrent expenditure of the specialised mental health service by the total number of patient days as presented in the Specialised mental health care facilities section.

Constant price

Constant price estimates are derived by adjusting the current prices to remove the effects of inflation. This allows for expenditures in different years to be compared and for changes in expenditure to reflect changes in the volume of health goods and services. Generally, the constant price estimates have been derived using annually re-weighted chain price indexes produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). In some cases, such indexes are not available, and ABS implicit price deflators have been used instead (AIHW 2020).

Current price

Current price refers to expenditures reported for a particular year, unadjusted for inflation. Changes in current price expenditure reflect changes in both price and volume (AIHW 2020).

Health expenditure

Health expenditure is reported in terms of who incurs the expenditure rather than who ultimately provides the funding. In the case of public hospital care, for example, all expenditures (that is, expenditure on medical and surgical supplies, drugs, salaries of doctors and nurses, and so forth) are incurred by the states and territories, but a proportion of those expenditures are funded by transfers from the Australian Government (AIHW 2020).

Health funding

Health funding is reported in terms of who provides the funds that are used to pay for health expenditure. In the case of public hospital care, for example, the Australian Government and the states and territories together provide over 90% of the funding; these funds are derived ultimately from taxation and other sources of government revenue. Some other funding comes from private health insurers and from individuals who choose to be treated as private patients and pay hospital fees out of their own pockets (AIHW 2020). The national recurrent expenditure on all mental health-related services can be estimated by combining funding from 3 sources:

  • state and territory contributions to specialised mental health services
  • Australian government expenditure on mental health-related services and contributions to specialised mental health services
  • private health insurance fund component estimated by the Department of Health.
Patient days

Patient days are days of admitted patient care provided to admitted patients in public psychiatric hospitals or specialised psychiatric units or wards in public acute hospitals and in residential mental health services. The total number of patient days is reported by specialised mental health service units. For consistency in data reporting, the following patient day data collection guidelines apply: admission and separation on the same day equals 1 day; all days are counted during a period of admission except for the day of separation; and leave days are excluded from the total. Note that the number of patient days reported to the National Mental Health Establishments Database is not directly comparable with the number of patient days reported either to the National Hospital Morbidity Database (Overnight admitted mental health-related care section) or the number of residential care days reported to the National Residential Mental Health Care Database (Residential mental health care services section)

Program type

Public sector specialised mental health hospital services can be categorised based on program type, which describes the principal purpose(s) of the program rather than the classification of the individual patients. Acute care admitted patient programs involve short‑term treatment for individuals with acute episodes of a mental disorder, characterised by recent onset of severe clinical symptoms that have the potential for prolonged dysfunction or risk to self and/or others. Non‑acute care refers to all other admitted patient programs, including rehabilitation and extended care services (see METeOR identifier 288889).

Recurrent expenditure

Recurrent expenditure refers to expenditure that does not result in the acquisition or enhancement of an asset—for example, salaries and wages expenditure and non‑salary expenditure such as payments to visiting medical officers (AIHW 2020).

Target population

Some specialised mental health services data are categorised using 5 target population groups (see METeOR identifier 682403): 

  • Child and adolescent services focus on those aged under 18 years.
  • Youth services focus on those aged 16–24 years.
  • Older person programs focus on those aged 65 years and over.
  • Forensic health services provide services primarily for people whose health condition has led them to commit, or be suspected of, a criminal offence or make it likely that they will reoffend without adequate treatment or containment.
  • General programs provide services to the adult population, aged 18 to 64, however, these services may also provide assistance to children, adolescents or older people.

Note that, in some states, specialised mental health beds for aged persons are jointly funded by the Australian and state and territory governments. However, not all states or territories report such jointly funded beds through the National Mental Health Establishments Database.