Key concepts

Mental health service provided by general practitioners

Key concept Description
Encounter Encounter refers to any professional interchange between a patient and a GP; it includes both direct, face‑to‑face encounters and indirect encounters where there is no face‑to‑face meeting but where a service is provided (for example, a prescription, referral or case-conference) (Britt et al. 2016).
General practitioners (GPs) General practitioners (GPs) are those medical practitioners who are vocationally registered under Section 3F of the Health Insurance Act 1973, or are Fellows of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners or trainees for vocational registration. 
Mental health‑related encounters Mental health‑related encounters are those encounters during which at least one mental health‑related problem was managed.
Mental health‑related problems Mental health‑related problems for the purposes of this section, are those that are classified in the psychological section (that is, the ‘P’ section) of the International Classification of Primary Care, 2nd edition (ICPC‑2). A list of the ‘P’ section codes for problems, which includes alcohol and drug‑related problems, is provided in the online technical information.
Mental health-related MBS items

Since 2002, several additional mental health specific items have been included on the MBS to provide support to GPs coordinating the treatment needs of patients with mental health related problems:

  • The 2002 Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care initiative was designed to improve community access to quality primary mental health services by providing better education and training for GPs and more support for them from allied health professionals and psychiatrists; and introduced new MBS items for eligible GPs under the headings ‘3 Step Mental Health Process’ and ‘Focussed Psychological Strategies’.
  • The November 2006 Better Access initiative was designed to improve access to, and better teamwork among, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, GPs and other allied health professionals; and introduced the GP Mental Health Care items as well as psychiatrist and allied health worker MBS items that are linked to these plans.
  • From 1 January 2010 4 new items (items 2700, 2701, 2715 and 2717) were introduced to replace items 2702 and 2710 for the development of a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan. Items 2700 and 2701 have a lower schedule fee for GPs who have not undertaken accredited Mental Health Skills Training. The schedule fees for the review consultation items 2712 and 2713 were reduced. Allied health services were capped at ten services per patient per calendar year, and the provision for an additional six services under exceptional circumstances was removed. Item 2719, an additional Treatment plan item, was introduced in November 2011.
The MBS groups, subgroups and item numbers associated with these initiatives are detailed in the data source of Medicare services section.


Britt H, Miller GC, Henderson J, Bayram C, Harrison C, Valenti L et al. 2016. General practice activity in Australia 2015–16. General practice series no.40. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

Alternative text for figures for the Mental health services provided by general practitioners section

Figure GP.1

Vertical bar chart depicting the mental health-related estimated GP encounters per 1,000 population, by age group sourced from the 2015–16 BEACH survey. Patients aged younger than 15 had a rate of 153.7 per 1,000 population, 15–24 518.5, 25–34 668.2, 35–44 880.0, 45–54 1,005.9, 55–64 998.1 and 65+ 1,198.2. Refer to table GP.2 Back to figure GP.1

Figure GP.2

Horizontal bar chart, including 95% confidence intervals, showing the rates of encounters for the 10 most frequently managed mental health-related problems from the 2015–16 BEACH survey. Depression was the most frequently managed mental health related problem (4.2 per 100 encounters), followed by anxiety (2.2), sleep disturbance (1.6), acute stress reaction (0.8), schizophrenia (0.5), dementia (0.5), tobacco abuse (0.5), drug abuse (0.4), alcohol abuse (0.3), and affective psychosis (0.3). Refer to table GP.3. Back to figure GP.2

Figure GP.3

Horizontal bar chart, including 95% confidence intervals, showing the rates of the most common medications prescribed, recommended or supplied by GPs during mental health-related encounters. Antidepressants were the most commonly prescribed, recommended or supplied medication (27.8 per 100 mental health-related problems), followed by anxiolytics (9.8), hypnotics and sedatives (9.1), and antipsychotics (6.6). Refer to table GP.5. Back to figure GP.3

Figure GP.4

Horizontal bar chart, including 95% confidence intervals, showing the rates of the most common referral types for management of mental health-related problems in the 2015–16 BEACH survey. The most common referrals were to psychologists (9.3 per 100 mental health-related problems managed), followed by psychiatrists (2.7), sleep clinics (1.1), paediatricians (0.8), and patient support group (0.4). Refer to table GP.5. Back to figure GP.4