Australia’s psychologists welcome telehealth extension, and call for it to be made permanent

Australia's psychologists welcome telehealth extension, and call for it to be made permanent

Friday 18 September

Australia’s peak body for psychology, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) has welcomed the Federal Government’s extension to Medicare-subsidised telehealth items, reiterating calls for it to be made permanently available.

APS President Ros Knight said the extension of Medicare subsidies to 31 March 2021 would provide psychologists and their clients with reassurance and certainty as the pandemic continues to take its toll.

“This will have a significant, positive impact on peoples’ mental health by allowing clients to continue to consult with their psychologist remotely, whilst keeping them safe from the potential spread of COVID-19.

“We sincerely thank the Federal Government for listening to our advice through our many meetings and discussions on this, and in particular Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt for his responsiveness and appreciation of the mental health impacts of the pandemic on our community,” she said.

Ms Knight echoed Minister Hunt’s description of telehealth as ‘a revolution in health delivery’.

“More than 90% of APS members have taken up telehealth, and it has quickly become a popular and effective modality for psychologists to consult with their clients.

“The six month extension is welcome indeed, but with such successful adoption of telehealth, and such strong demand and popularity with clients for its flexibility and convenience, the APS is calling for this to be made permanent,” she said.

Ms Knight said the APS would also continue to call on Government to extend access to a further 10 sessions of psychological treatment under Medicare to all Australians.

“Many of our clients are quickly running out of sessions, and APS members have reported that more than half of their clients are likely to require more sessions than their mental health plans had allowed.

“Additional sessions were made available to Victorians in August, and while they are certainly struggling under the current circumstances, we cannot lose site that this pandemic has had a toll on all Australians, regardless of their location,” she said.

Ms Knight said the announcement followed months of intense discussion between the APS and Government.

“We have had several discussions with the Minister, his staff and the department about the permanence of telehealth, and we look forward to continuing to explore options for models for telehealth over the next few months.

“We commend the Prime Minister and his Government for all they have done to ensure the mental health needs of Australians are appropriately supported during the pandemic, and that psychologists can continue to operate safely and effectively in the best interests of their clients.

“The best next steps to continue this good work are to secure the future of telehealth for the delivery of psychological services, and to allow all Australians to access additional services if they need them,” she said.

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