Showcasing: Psychiatry Support Line for GPs

Region
South Eastern NSW

Lead agency

The support line is co-commissioned by eight of the 10 Primary Health Networks (PHN) in New South Wales, led by Coordinare, the South Eastern NSW Primary Health Network (PHN).

Living Well domain
Better responses

Program overview

The Psychiatry Support Line is a free specialist advice line exclusively for general practitioners (GPs or doctors) to enhance their mental health expertise. Staffed by psychiatrists, the initiative was launched in July 2018 and is funded through the federal government’s PHN program.

ProCare Mental Health Services was commissioned to run the service following an open tender process. Initially a group of six PHNs, the current co-commissioning PHNs are Coordinare (South Eastern NSW PHN), Sydney North PHN, Central and Eastern Sydney PHN, Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN, Murrumbidgee PHN, Western NSW PHN, Nepean Blue Mountains PHN and North Coast PHN.

Challenge

GPs play a vital part in maintaining community wellness and are often the first health professional that people turn to when seeking support.In 2006, a national GP psychiatrist support service was launched for GPs, offering specialist guidance regarding the mental health issues of people in their care. GPs submitted enquiries to a psychiatrist via a website and received a comprehensive, evidence-based response within 24 hours. 

Advice covered by the service included everything from perinatal, child and adolescent, drug and alcohol to general adult, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and older adult psychiatry to general patient management advice. GP feedback to the service was very positive. The service ran until late 2013, at which time it was de-funded and GPs no longer had access to this specialized support. 

Solution

The GP Psychiatry Support Line is a new phone service that provides over 7000 GPs in NSW with easy and free access to specialist advice and support. This service ensures that people with mental health issues can be cared for by their local GP and are supported to live in the community.

People with lived experience of mental health issues have been involved in all aspects of service development, including sitting on the panel that evaluated the tenders and selected a provider. The chosen provider has people with lived experience in its governance structure. The steering group that oversees the project and monitors performance also has lived experience representation.

 

The pool of 10 psychiatrists staffing service are supported by reception staff, a project manager and contract manager from the lead PHN.

In addition, the team of psychiatrists regularly produces webinars on topics requested by GPs. Headed by renowned psychiatrist Dr Martin Cohen, a psychiatrist presents a topic they specialise in, followed by Q&A. The webinars are accredited for professional development points by the RACGP, as well as the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine. To date, webinars have covered Adult ADHD; Bipolar Disorder; Gender Dysphoria; Mental Health and Depression in Older People; and Anxiety Disorders.

Outcome

The GP Psychiatry Support Line has supported GPs in its catchment to provide better mental health care.

People can now benefit from enhanced primary mental health care at their local doctor, without having to pay for specialist appointments unless they are absolutely necessary. 

GP registrations for the service are growing steadily and those who have utilised the service say they feel less isolated and more supported because of the service.

“I was in a doubt what to do with this patient and I wanted urgent answer on the control of her illness.  It is a great service for rural GP like us”.  GP from Murrumbidgee PHN.

“Great service which makes me feel less isolated and more supported in my small rural community” GP from South Eastern NSW PHN (Coordinare).

For more information visit www.coordinare.org.au