Roll of dice determines access to mental health care

Roll of dice determines access to mental health care

20 March 2015, 7:00AM
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists

The geographically inequitable affordability of mental health care provided by DHBs exacerbates the difficulties faced by people with physical and mental health conditions said the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in their report launched today at their new office in Chews Lane Wellington.

‘New Zealand has an excellent health care system’ said Dr Murray Patton, Auckland Psychiatrist and President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists ‘but there are still many ‘gaps’ in the system which unlucky patients fall into every year; the disconnect between services for mental and physical health are beginning to be more widely recognised, but the affordability of both services is not often considered. Our patients tell us that it’s still a major issue.

A new report released today explores this issue in detail, Minding the gaps: Cost barriers to accessing health care for people with mental illness includes discussion of the roles of General Practitioners, Psychiatrists and Allied Health professionals as well as stories from people with mental illness.

Data from 2010 has shown that over one-quarter (26%) of New Zealand adults with a chronic illness reported cost-related access problems. This higher than comparable English-speaking Commonwealth countries including the UK (11%) and Canada (20%). In fact, 18% of New Zealanders surveyed reported that in the past 12 months they had a medical problem but did not visit a doctor due to cost issues. This was higher than any other country surveyed, apart from the USA.

‘Many DHBs have excellent and innovative programs in place to support people with serious mental illness’ said Dr Patton ‘but some have very few services, and for others it’s a matter of being in the right place, with the right doctor, at the time’.

‘It’s unfair that luck or geography can play such an important role. All New Zealanders deserve to be able to access the best available care for mental illness and that is not the case.

‘The government can play an important role in supporting DHBs to evaluate their programs and share models and results so everyone can benefit.’

The report makes a number of recommendations for policy review and reform involving the Ministry of Health, DHBs and other stakeholders including General Practitioners, including:

Establishment of national targets for care of people with severe mental illness
Increase funding for GP care specifically to increase accessibility for early diagnosis, and manage risks for chronic illnesses and the side effects of medications. This should include funding for case conferencing and care planning in partnership with psychiatrists as appropriate.

Increase funding for Peer Support Workers to support consumers to engage with low-cost health promotion activities, and lift the administrative burden from consumers to access existing services such as low-cost health cards and subsidies for medical devices which increase affordability.

Develop an interdisciplinary practice network to evaluate innovative new models of expanded service delivery and encourage their adoption across multiple DHBs.

Support DHB programs targeting people with mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression to also offer their free services (such as counselling or exercise) to people with low prevalence conditions who do not otherwise receive low-cost assistance in these areas.

WHAT:    Launch of Minding the gaps: Cost barriers to accessing health care for people with mental illness and opening of RANZCP’s New Zealand National Office
WHEN:    6pm – 8pm Friday 20th March
WHERE:    Level 3, 11 Chews Lane, Wellington
WHO:    Prof Sir Mason Durie, Dr Lynne Lane, Mental Health Commissioner,     Dr Murray Patton, RANZCP President and representatives of consumers and psychiatrists.

If you would like to receive a copy of the Minding the gaps report, attend the Friday launch, receive the media release or speak with NZ psychiatrists or consumers about the report please contact or call the NZ National Office on 64 (04) 472 7247.