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Pirkis, J., Harris, M., Hall, W. and Ftanou, M. (2011) Evaluation of the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule Initiative. Summative Evaluation, Final Report. Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne.
ABSTRACT: Introduction: Since the Australian Government introduced the “Better Access to Mental Health Services” program in 2006, psychiatrists, psychologists and general practitioners (GPs) have become increasingly involved in service provision for people seeking help with mental health problems. The aim of this research was to a) explore psychologists’ perceptions of difficult to treat depression (DTTD) and b) explore what they thought about the GPs’ role in managing these patient given that most patients are referred to psychologist by GPs. Methods: A previously developed semi-structured interview schedule comprising six questions was used. Seven psychologists participated in a focus group held in Melbourne. Data were analysed using the framework method. Findings, including Discussion: While psychologists understood the term DTTD it was suggested that using different terms may limit understanding between health professionals. Rather than diagnosing, psychologists were more likely to conduct further assessment contextually to confirm GPs’ diagnosis. Communication with GPs was important, particularly when managing “long-term” and suicidal patients. Management included cognitive and behavioural interventions and referring to other mental health services, psychiatrists and/or other allied health professionals. Referral to psychiatrists could be difficult because of limited availability and for some patients, prohibitive costs. Although psychologists discussed non-pharmacological and/or complementary treatment options with patients, they were more likely to rely on GPs to discuss/prescribe these options. Conclusion: While generalisability may be limited, this study is the first to document some understanding of psychologists perceptions of DTTD and the importance of GPs and other health professionals’ role in managing this patient cohort.