With clinical registrations are growing at a rate of 10% a year, and barely any other university courses available, there will be no psychologists other than clinical (medical model) psychologists left in the 10 years time. They may as well rename the APS the ACS (Australian Clinical Society) now.
This phenomenal growth rate will also mean that in five year’s time almost the entire amount of the today’s funding in Better Access will be spent on clinical psychology services.
From July 2015 to June 2016, the total spend on psychological services in Medicare was just over $463 million, with 53% being spent on clinical psychology services alone. In 5 years clinical services are expected to blow out to $407 million. (Dept. Human Services, Medicare data. 2016)
There will be almost nothing left for anyone else unless the government dramatically increases the Better Access funding, which is highly unlikely in the current circumstances. This government is only interested in saving money.
This picture does not include the hundred of thousands of patients who will miss out on psychological services because of the higher rebate!
We all know that Better Access is the backbone of private practice in Australia, with a huge percentage of the 27,791 registered psychologists employed in small and large practices across Australia. How will they survive if the funding dries up in Better Access all because of the two-tier system?
The original rationalisation for a higher rebate for clinical psychologists was to support their work as mental health specialist psychologists in approved mental health settings, such as acute, community or dedicated public and private mental health facilities.
But that isn’t what’s happening. What is happening is that clinical psychologists are working in private practice doing general work like everyone else and being paid at a higher rate. That’s discrimination and anti-competitive practice.
And it may well be right that any trained psychologist working in an acute care mental health setting should receive a higher rebate – but that work should not be restricted to clinical psychologists only.