Axe falls on GP psych support hotline

The 24-hour hotline giving GPs access to psychiatrists for advice on patients has been scrapped by the Federal Government.

In a shock move, the GP Psych Support program, which has been run by the RACGP, was wound up on Thursday after the government revealed it would no longer fund the scheme.

Rural doctors in particular have relied on the hotline but as yet the government has offered no explanation as to why it has axed a key support for GP mental health care.

Dr Michael Tam, a GP in Sydney, said: “This is outrageous."

"The hotline is probably of most help to those GPs trying to look after patients with complicated mental illness, where for one reason or another, they haven't much immediate local support."

"The defunding of this hotline is going to impact most on those most vulnerable - patients with need who don't have access to more specialised mental health services."

RACGP President Dr Liz Marles said: “GPs face great difficulty in gaining access to advice from psychiatrists and there is a very serious need for a service that supports GPs to continue their vital work in addressing community health needs."

“With over 71% of patients who have mental illness presenting first to their GP, it is essential that GPs have fast and easy access to evidence based advice from psychiatrists."

The program was originally launched in 2005.

The RACGP says it will be lobbying the government to reverse its decision.