Departmental response to Daily Telegraph

Psychiatrists, psychologists and Lapel Pins

17 June 2019

Every day the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) works with veterans and their families to improve services and support for those who have served in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and will continue to play a part in improving mental health and reducing the risk of suicide.

How many Lapel Pins have been requested and sent out? How many were made and what was the cost?

To date we have received over 18,000 applications for the Veterans’ Recognition Program. The distribution of Lapel Pins will begin when the covenant passes Federal Parliament.

How many psychiatrists and psychologists accept the White Card in Sydney?*

Almost all psychiatrists, medical specialists, and other health professionals see a wide range of patients including veterans, public patients and private patients. Some health professionals are in undersupply overall, by specialty (such as psychiatrists) and/or in certain regional locations.

As a result, it is not uncommon for there to be waiting lists and waiting times, and it is up to the individual practice / health professional to determine the relative clinical urgency and priority order of patients seeking their attention.

DVA seeks to address this in the following ways:

  • Assisting DVA clients to access other practitioners if the waiting time is unacceptable, including offering assistance with travel and other access arrangements if there are no other local service providers.
  • For urgent mental health access, DVA also offers the services of Open Arms, a 24/7 Mental Health services for Veterans and their families.
  • Offering both public and private hospital access to eligible veterans, with no out of pocket costs for either. Private hospitals tend to have much shorter waiting times
  • However, for some services, and in some locations, there can be waiting times, and DVA is not in a position to dictate clinical priorities to individual hospitals and practitioners.

* Note: This is additional context separate to the material provided to the Daily Telegraph at the time.

Has the amount of psychiatrists and psychologists who approve the White Card increased/ decreased over the years? 

The tables below detail the actual number of psychiatrists and psychologists who have received payment via a DVA-issued White Card for their services to a DVA client within the Sydney area. For this purpose, we identified the Sydney area as anywhere within a 50-km radius of the central business district.

This is not an exhaustive count of the providers who treat DVA White Card holders; it is just a count of those that did so over the past five financial years. It is up to each individual provider to determine if they accept the DVA Treatment Card or not.

The number of services and providers has increased over the 5-year period. Noting that 2018–19 financial year data is not complete yet.

 Psychiatry

Year

Number of Providers

Number of Services

2014-2015

161

3,468

2015-2016

181

3,787

2016-2017

199

4,179

2017-2018

217

4,727

2018-2019*

234

4,360

 

Psychology

Year

Number of Providers

Number of Services

2014-2015

66

801

2015-2016

99

1,283

2016-2017

131

1,733

2017-2018

184

2,125

2018-2019*

192

2,082

*Note: Figures are not for the full financial year.

Is there an online page where a veteran can find a list of places that accept this card?

No. As health providers are free to choose whether or not they treat a DVA client on a case-by-case basis, a list of providers is not published. If a DVA client is experiencing difficulty in locating a health care provider who will accept DVA health cards, DVA can help by identifying alternative arrangements. This could include providing transport to alternate health providers or, where there is a specific clinical need, funding services above the DVA rate. Clients who need assistance can contact DVA on 1800 555 254.

Someone mentioned they had to travel more than an hour from their place for the next closest psychiatrist. I'll give you the option of responding to this. 

Access to psychiatrists, and specialists more broadly, can be difficult in some locations, particularly for those living in rural and regional areas. This is an issue that affects the whole community, not just veterans and their families. In these circumstances, DVA has a number of options for its clients. DVA will work with a client to identify a provider and fund transport to that provider if necessary. DVA can also put in place extra support arrangements where there is a clinical need.