Health round-up: Mental health services, the cost of caring and futile hospital treatments

Richard Laycock 19 October 2017 NEWS

man mental health patient doctor

A weekly round-up of Australia's latest healthcare news.

Rise in Australians accessing government-subsidised mental health services

Australians turning to government-subsidised mental health services rose to 10% in 2015-16, according to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report.

The report found that roughly 700,000 more Australians received government-subsidised mental health services in 2015-16 than in 2011-12, up from 1.6 million (7.2% of the population) in 2011-12 to 2.3 million people (9.5%) in 2015-16.

"Overall, 1.8 million people received Medicare-subsidised mental health services from a GP and more than 1 in 10 – or 12% of GP consultations – were for mental health reasons," said AIHW spokesperson Matthew James in a statement.

In 2015-16, antidepressants accounted for over two-thirds (69%) of the 36 million prescriptions for mental health-related medications.

Middle-aged parents looking after kids and parents

Australia's ageing population is putting a burden on the "sandwich generation", according to research commissioned by CarePilot.

The sandwich generation refers to those aged in their 30s and 40s who are being forced to care for their children and their parents.

The study found that almost half (48%) of Australians in the sandwich generation were having to assist a parent with care as well as assisting with household jobs and maintenance.

This is probably why the research found that 22% of the sandwich generation were exhausted both physically and emotionally.

“Caring for elderly parents who live at home as well as managing your own family, while working and also trying to find time for yourselves can be overwhelming,” geriatrician and clinical director of CarePilot, Dr Tuly Rosenfeld, said in a statement.

The research also found that one in three (36%) Australians in the sandwich generation were giving over five hours a week to care for their parents, with almost half (46%) saying that caring for their parents was impacting their own health.

$153.1 million a year on futile hospital treatments

Australians are paying $153.1 million a year for non-beneficial end-of-life hospital treatments, according to researchers from The University of Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

"We found that, on average, 12.1% of end-of-life patients received non-beneficial treatment during their hospital stay," health economist from QUT and lead author, Dr Hannah Carter, said in a statement.

The research, published in the British Medical Journal Open, also found that every year non-beneficial treatments took up 41,000 acute hospital bed days.

What else is happening?

Just in time for World Osteoporosis Day (Friday 20 October), a bipartisan ministerial roundtable discussion was held today at Parliament House to review the impact of osteoporosis and to examine fracture prevention in Australia.

“Fractures are mostly caused by osteoporosis in people aged over 50. Yet only 20 per cent of these patients are currently being investigated. Therefore, most patients are not being diagnosed, and remain unaware of their underlying health issue," Osteoporosis Australia CEO, Greg Lyubomirsky, said in a statement.

Lyubomirsky said that it's encouraging to see bipartisan support for achieving better patient outcomes.

Each week our round-up offers a summary of the latest developments impacting Australian healthcare and most importantly, you, the consumer. Check in every Thursday to find out what's happening in health.

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