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Keywords:

  • access;
  • integrated service;
  • mental health;
  • remote;
  • visiting

Abstract

Objective: To see if a new model of service delivery ensures that individuals with a mental illness in rural and remote settings could be assessed, treated and cared for in a more appropriate way.

Design: Community mental health teams (CMHTs), general practitioners (GP) and other agencies were provided with clinical and broader support services by consultant psychiatrists from public and private sectors. The occasions of service were logged, audited and relevant provider groups were interviewed. Ethics approval was provided by Human Research Ethics Community of University of New South Wales.

Setting: Far West Area Health Service (FWAHS), remote New South Wales.

Participants: An enhanced service was provided for residents, specialist mental health and other healthcare providers.

Results:

  • • 
    Regular access to psychiatrists for primary and secondary care was achieved in remote communities in FWAHS.
  • • 
    3908 new patients were seen by CMHTs between July 2002 and December 2003 and 380 by visiting psychiatrists between January 2002 and July 2003.
  • • 
    Secondary consultation, mentoring and education opportunities were made available by tele-conference and face-to-face for CMHTs and others in FWAHS.
  • • 
    GPs and CMHTs in remote settings were satisfied with improved access to psychiatrist care.

Conclusions: This model appears to be sustainable with reasonable levels of funding in FWAHS and may be applicable to other remote contexts.