ATAPS, as part of the BOiMHC program, aims to improve community access to primary mental health services by supporting general practitioners in their role of providing services to people with a mental health disorder. ATAPS has been well received by GPs, Divisions of General Practice, consumers and other stakeholders because it has:

  • achieved a good geographic spread, including in rural and regional areas

  • facilitated the provision of innovative service models such as the introduction of telephone based CBT, and outreach services

  • enabled the targeting of specific population groups such as homeless people, indigenous populations and refugee groups

  • supported the development of local teamwork models involving allied health professionals, GPs and psychiatrists

  • enabled the development of links at a local level between primary mental health care services and other mental health programs such as MindMatters school based programs or drought initiatives

  • enabled flexible approaches to recruiting and retaining workforce

  • provided security of employment in areas where full time private practice might not be sustainable

  • been supported nationally and at a state level by the primary mental health care network through AGPN and State Based Organisation officers funded by DOHA to facilitate information exchange.
However stakeholders and the available data have highlighted a number of areas for improvement. These include:
  • ATAPS is not cost effective compared to Better Access. At a median cost of $171 for a session it is more efficient to Government to deliver Medicare funded services in those areas which have a good supply of private allied health services.

  • ATAPS does not currently provide targeted service delivery to those that are in most need.

  • In some areas (particularly urban), ATAPS services appear to be simply duplicating Better Access services – even to the point of operating in the same offices and being provided by the same allied health professionals.

  • There is some potential duplication and overlap between ATAPS and other allied health programs including More Allied Health Services and the Rural and Remote Mental Health Services measure.

  • There are not sufficient incentives in current funding arrangements for efficiency – this is resulting in some extremely high unit costs in some Divisions of General Practice. There are also no incentives for Divisions of General Practice to adapt more targeted and innovative approaches.

  • Some Divisions of General Practice have experienced difficulty managing demand for services, not withstanding difficulties in workforce, due to capped funding.

  • There has been a creep, in some Divisions of General Practice, in the percentage of funding allocated for administrative costs, this removes funding from service delivery and impacts on efficiency of service delivery.

  • Quality assurance in the selection and ongoing training of Allied Health Professionals has been varied across Divisions of General Practice and problematic in some areas.

  • Some hard to reach populations eg. homeless and indigenous populations, do not always present through general practice, hence they are unlikely to receive referral to ATAPS.

  • There is no capacity to engage organisations other than Divisions of General Practice in service delivery. This may be particularly important when trying to engage with specific target groups where Divisions of General Practice have no expertise.

  • ATAPS is constrained by workforce shortages particularly in rural and remote areas.