This chapter considers Evaluation Question 1: To what extent has the Better Access initiative provided access to mental health care for people with mental disorders? Across all of Australia? Across all age groups? Specifically, the chapter examines the rate of uptake of MBSsubsidised Better Access items for the total Australian population and for key population subgroups. Analyses are conducted using data on Medicare–subsidised Better Access services received since the inception of the program on 1 November 2006. The focus is on the number of persons using these services, rather than the number of services they used.

To examine the broad question of access, descriptive statistics were generated describing the number and demographic profile (age group, sex, geographical location, and socio–economic disadvantage group) of consumers who have been provided with MBS–subsidised mental health services under the Better Access initiative. In addition to a summary profile including all relevant MBS items, profiles were generated separately by item group (Consultant Psychiatry Items [291–299], GP Mental Health Treatment Items [2710–2713, 2702], Psychological Therapy Services Items [80000–80020], and Focussed Psychological Strategies [80100–80170]) and provider type (General Practitioner, Consultant Psychiatrist, Clinical Psychologist, General Psychologist, Occupational Therapist and Social Worker). The items accounting for the greatest uptake within each item group were also profiled. Trends in uptake over time were examined in order to determine whether there have been changes in the rate of uptake as the Better Access initiative has become more established. Finally, the extent to which Better Access providing services to 'new' consumers, that is, consumers who have not previously used these services, was examined.

The analyses presented in this chapter address Evaluation Question 1 via the following series of research questions:

  1. What has been the rate of uptake of Better Access services overall?

  2. What has been the rate of uptake of Better Access by item group?

  3. What has been the rate of uptake of Better Access by item provider type?

  4. What has been the relative uptake of items within items groups?

  5. What are the socio–demographic characteristics of consumers who have received Better Access services?

  6. Have there been changes over time in the socio–demographic profile of consumers who have received Better Access services?

  7. To what extent is Better Access providing services to 'new' consumers?