New psychiatry support line available for GPs

Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) today joined with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and five other PHNs to announce that ProCare Mental Health Services, a not-for-profit service provider, has been funded to operate a new psychiatry support line for GPs.

According to MPHN CEO Melissa Neal, GPs have said they would like timely access to psychiatry expertise to assist them managing the care of their patients with mental health problems.

“With limited numbers of psychiatrists practicing outside of metropolitan areas, and with no psychiatry advice services currently available for GPs in NSW, this service will be crucial in supporting our GPs,” Ms Neal said.

“With our local GPs having access to a telephone advice line staffed by specialist psychiatrists we anticipate that more people will be able to remain within general practice for their ongoing care.

“This is not about simply referring people to a psychiatrist, but rather keeping people whose conditions are able to be treated within the primary care setting under their GP do so,” Ms Neal said.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack applauded the decision to commission a psychiatry support service to assist local GPs.

“The Liberal and Nationals’ Government will always provide the support our GPs need,” Mr McCormack said.

“We cannot expect our health professionals to play such a critical role in caring for our communities without considering their own health and wellbeing needs. This service will provide an avenue of support that could be life changing for someone in their time of need.

“Rural communities face specific health challenges and deserve localised and tailored programs to ensure they receive the same level of care as the rest of the country. We are committed to improving local health services in rural and regional communities and one of the first areas we are targeting is rural retention – supporting our existing cohort of regional health professionals.

“We know if they are supported and cared for in their community then we can attract more health professionals to live, work and love our regional communities.”

Ms Neal said this was the first time that six PHNs had joined together to co-commission a service, with ProCare Mental Health Services being selected following an open tender process conducted with five other PHNs: Coordinare – South Eastern NSW PHN, Northern Sydney PHN, Central and Eastern Sydney PHN, Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN, and Western NSW PHN.

Ms Neal said that with ProCare’s proven success in providing a range of high quality mental health services which support individuals, couples, families, and children, it is well placed to deliver a high quality advice line for GPs.

“Sadly, we know the Murrumbidgee region has high rates of mental disorders and psychological distress, with relatively high rates of suicide and self-harm, compared to other regions across the state.

“We commission a number of mental health, drug and alcohol services throughout the Murrumbidgee region and this will be welcomed addition to these vital services,” Ms Neal said.

The new support line is due to commence operations today and will be great news for local GPs in the region.

Cristy Houghton