Better Access Initiative - supporting mental health care

Information about services eligible health professionals can provide to patients under the Better Access initiative.

The Better Access initiative aims to improve treatment and management of mental illness within the community. It gives patients better access to mental health professionals and team-based mental health care.

Under this initiative, patients can access Medicare benefits for selected mental health services provided by:

  • general practitioners (GPs)
  • non-vocationally registered medical practitioners (non-VR MPs)
  • psychiatrists
  • clinical psychologists
  • psychologists
  • social workers
  • occupational therapists.

Find out more about the relevant Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item descriptions, fact sheets and explanatory notes at MBS Online.

Confirming mental health items and limits

You can use the MBS items online checker in HPOS for all of the following:

  • view and check patient eligibility based on their MBS history
  • check your own eligibility for claiming MBS items
  • check claiming conditions for MBS items.

You can call us to check both of the following:

  • if a patient has claimed a GP mental health treatment plan (GPMHTP)
  • how many allied mental health services the patient has already received in the calendar year.

Information for eligible practitioners

You can use these items if you’re working in general practice.

They’re not available to either of the following:

  • specialists
  • consultant physicians.

The term ‘GP’ in the item descriptions is used as a generic reference to medical practitioners eligible to claim these items.

Under Better Access, you can provide and claim for the services in the tables below.

You should register with us if you’ve completed the mental health skills training accredited by the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration. Once you’ve registered, you can provide GP focussed psychological strategies (FPS) services.

Find out more about ongoing telehealth arrangements on MBS Online.

Service Patients in the community Residents of an aged care facility Frequency
Prepare a GP mental health treatment plan (GPMHTP) 272 276
281-282
2700-2701
2715 2717
93400-93403
93431-93434

Health professionals:

  • can use these items once every 12 months
  • can’t use these items within 3 months of using a review item.
Review a mental health treatment plan 277 2712 93421
93451

Health professionals:

  • can use these items once every 3 months
  • can’t use these items within 4 weeks of claiming a GPMHTP item.
Manage a patient’s mental health condition 279 2713 or a general consultation item  

Health professionals can use these items as often as necessary. There are no restrictions.

Provide initial focussed psychological strategies (FPS) services 283-287
2721-2727

941-942

2733-2735

Health professionals can use these items up to 10 times every 12 months.

Additional access to mental health treatment

You can refer your patients for up to 10 additional mental health treatment sessions covered by Medicare. Your patient is eligible for the sessions if all of the following apply:

  • they’ve got a current mental health treatment plan
  • they’ve used all of their previous Medicare covered sessions
  • they’ve had a review with their referring health professional.

This measure is available until 31 December 2022.

Health professionals can provide and claim for the services in the tables below.

Service Face-to-face and telehealth MBS items Frequency
Provide additional focussed psychological strategies (FPS) services 93300
93303
93306
93309

Health professionals can use these items up to 10 times every 12 months.

Provide additional focussed psychological strategies (FPS) services to an aged care resident 93287-93288
93291-93292

Health professionals can use these items up to 10 times every 12 months.

Billing GP mental health services

To determine which item applies when billing a GP mental health service you can either:

  • ask the patient if they have a copy of the previous GPMHTP
  • with the patient’s permission, ask their previous health professional for a copy.

You can review a patient’s previous plan if it’s been in place for more than 4 weeks.

Only prepare a GPMHTP if you’re the patient’s usual practitioner and expect to continue managing their condition.

Patient eligibility for mental health treatment

GPMHTPs and review services are available to:

  • patients in the community
  • private in-patients, including residents of aged care facilities being discharged from hospital
  • residents of aged care facilities not admitted to hospital.

To be eligible, a patient must both:

  • have a mental disorder
  • be likely to benefit from a structured approach to the management of their care needs.

Referred mental health services

Once you’ve completed a GPMHTP, you can refer your patient for a range of mental health services, including:

  • psychological therapy services performed by a clinical psychologist
  • allied health FPS services performed by a registered psychologist, occupational therapist or social worker
  • FPS services performed by another practitioner with appropriate training.

You can also refer your patient for these services, if you’re managing them under either a:

  • referred psychiatrist assessment and management plan
  • shared care plan.

Certain allied health services require the patient’s care to be managed under a:

  • GP Management Plan and Team Care Arrangements
  • GPMHTP or shared care plan.

Find out about continuity of care for patients previously part of the Health Care Homes trial on the Department of Health and Aged Care website.

Referral course of treatment

The number of services stated in the referral is a ‘course of treatment’.

The maximum number of sessions you can include on a referral for each course of treatment is:

  • 6 sessions using the initial MBS items
  • 10 sessions using the additional MBS items.

A patient can have 2 or more courses of treatment within their calendar year with a limit of:

  • 10 initial services
  • 10 additional services.

Patients need a new referral for each course of treatment.

If you provide FPS services to your patient, they’ll count towards the calendar year claiming limits.

Referral format and content

There’s no standard form for mental health referrals. You can refer your patient for services with a signed and dated letter.

The referral should include:

  • your patient’s name
  • date of birth
  • address
  • their symptoms or diagnosis
  • the number of treatment services required
  • a statement about whether the patient has a GPMHTP, shared care plan or a psychiatrist assessment and management plan.

Referral validity

Referrals are valid for the number of services shown on the referral letter or note. Mental health referrals do not expire at the end of the year.

If your patient has unused services on referral at the end of the calendar year, they can use them the next year.

Calendar year claiming limits for mental health services

In a calendar year, your patient can receive psychological therapy and FPS services up to the combined limit of:

  • 20 individual services
  • 10 group services.

A calendar year is from 1 January to 31 December.

The yearly claiming limit is calculated on the date of service, not when the treatment was referred.

Once a patient has reached their service limit, you can keep seeing them but they can’t access Medicare benefits for your services.

Information for allied health professionals

Allied mental health services and MBS items

To be an eligible allied health professional, you must both:

  • meet the eligibility criteria
  • have a Medicare provider number.

Under Better Access, you can provide the services in the tables below.

Find more about ongoing telehealth arrangements on MBS Online.

Sessions Initial Additional Group
Clinical psychologist 80000-80015 93330, 93333 80020-80025
Registered psychologist 80100-80115 93350, 93353 80120-80121, 80122-80123, 80127-80128
Occupational therapist 80125-80126, 80130-80140 93356, 93359 80145-80146, 80147-80148, 80152-80153
Social worker 80150-80151, 80155-80165 93362, 93365 80170-80175

From 10 December 2020, aged care residents are eligible to get Medicare subsidised psychological services each calendar year through the Better Access Initiative.

Sessions Initial Additional Group
Clinical psychologist 93375-93376
80001, 80011
93312-93313 n/a
Registered psychologist 93381-93382
80101, 80111
93316, 93319 n/a
Occupational therapist 93383-93384
80126, 80136
93322-93323 n/a
Social worker 93385-93386
80151, 80161
93326-93327 n/a

Patient eligibility for allied mental health services

An eligible health professional must assess your patient as having a mental disorder. The following health professionals can refer allied mental health services:

  • a health professional who is managing the patient under a GPMHTP, referred psychiatrist assessment and management plan or shared care plan
  • a psychiatrist
  • a paediatrician.

If you’re not sure if your patient is eligible, you can contact the referring health professional. You can continue to see patients who aren’t eligible, but they can’t access Medicare benefits for the services you provide.

You must keep copies of referrals for 2 years.

Allied mental health professional reporting

You must provide a written report to the referring health professional after completing each course of treatment.

It must include all of the following:

  • assessments carried out on the patient and, where relevant, the progress made
  • treatments provided
  • recommendations on future management of the patient’s disorder.

You don’t need to use an approved form to write a report.

Reporting when a patient doesn’t complete a course of treatment

If your patient doesn’t complete treatment, you need to write your report after the last service. If they return later and complete the course of treatment, you’ll need to write another report.

Telehealth for allied health

Telehealth MBS items provide Medicare benefits for allied health services provided via videoconferencing.

The following health professionals can use these items:

  • psychologists
  • clinical psychologists
  • occupational therapists
  • social workers.

These items are stand-alone and do not have a derived fee structure.

Your patient must:

  • have both a visual and audio link with you
  • be located in an area within Modified Monash regions 4-7
  • be located at least 15km, by road, from you at the time of consultation.

You can deliver all 20 services by videoconference.

Group therapy services involving 4-10 patients can be delivered by telehealth for:

  • psychological therapy with a clinical psychologist
  • FPS with a psychologist, occupational therapist or social worker.

Telehealth restrictions

You can’t claim telehealth attendance items for services provided to admitted hospital and hospital in-the-home patients.

If you can’t establish both a video and audio link with the patient you can’t claim these items.

Telehealth MBS items can’t be used for telephone or email consultations.

Ongoing Telehealth Arrangement

MBS telehealth services introduced on a temporary basis in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now permanent. These ongoing items don’t have geographic limitations.

Find more about ongoing telehealth arrangements on MBS Online.

Case study: Individual services provided in 2 calendar years

You’re an occupational therapist specialising in focussed psychological strategies.

Following a review with their GP, your patient is referred back to you for further treatment. The referral is for 10 additional focussed psychological strategies sessions.

By the end of December, you’ve only provided 3 of these additional sessions. You can continue treatment in the next year using the same referral.

Under Better Access, patients can access 20 individual treatment sessions each calendar year. The remaining 7 sessions are carried over into the next year and will count towards the 20 sessions for that year.

Find out more about Referred Allied Health Services.

Page last updated: 9 December 2022