Members' attention is drawn to an elaborate email scam targeting psychologists which has recently re-emerged. There may well be variations of this type of scam. The scam involves a person contacting a psychologist by email to inform him or her that he wants to book daily therapy for a group of 10 oil rig workers while they are on vacation.
After negotiating the level and type of services required in further emails to the psychologist, the person undertakes to pay the psychologist but is only able to do this through traveller’s cheques, sometimes via their employer. Ultimately the traveller’s cheques will be received by the psychologist, but are likely to be bogus. Once the psychologist receives the traveller’s cheques, the person then cancels the appointments and asks for a refund of the payment – most likely to another bank account.
Members should be extremely cautious if they are requested to make any arrangement that sounds like this, and they are strongly advised not to process such payments. To attempt to do so could potentially implicate the psychologist in the scam itself.
The latest ‘Connections’ newsletter from the Psychology Board of Australia has an item titled ‘Eligibility requirements for psychologists under the Medicare Better Access initiative’ that requires clarification.
The newsletter states:
“Psychologists who are approved to provide Medicare psychological therapy services will now be required to hold general registration as a psychologist and a clinical psychology area of practice endorsement. Medicare is allowing grandfathering provisions for psychologists who are already approved to provide psychological therapy services on the basis of the previous Australian Psychological Society pathway. These psychologists may continue to provide these services for 12 months, after which time a clinical psychology endorsement is required.”
This statement has caused considerable concern and confusion, and two matters require clarification.
Any members who were assessed as eligible for membership of the APS College of Clinical Psychologists and who do not have an area of practice endorsement in clinical psychology with the Psychology Board of Australia should contact the APS Member Assistance Centre on 1800 333 497 or 8662 3300 (if calling from Melbourne).
The Federal Government has recently announced the outcomes of a competitive tender process to select the organisations to operate the 31 new Primary Health Networks (PHNs) that will replace the existing 61 Medicare Locals from 1 July 2015 (as announced in the 2014-15 Federal Budget). Most applications to operate PHNs were put forward as collaborative partnerships, or consortium arrangements, between several organisations. On 11 April the Minister for Health announced the lead organisation for the successful PHN bids, with further information about consortium partners yet to be released.
The Government has indicated there will be transitional period from April 2015, and comparable funding agreements put in place during the first year of PHN operation for services currently funded by Medicare Locals. However, it is unclear what these arrangements will mean in practice. As a result, many service providers (including those employed directly and under programs such as ATAPS and Partners in Recovery) have no information on whether their existing contracts with Medicare Locals will be continued beyond 30 June 2015, or in what form. Much of this detail will be subject to contract negotiations that will take place between PHNs and Medicare Locals over the coming weeks. The APS is continuing to seek further details and will keep members informed as these become available.
The APS was involved in the largest ever mental health delegation to Federal Parliament this week, meeting with more than 40 Members of Parliament and Senators, including Ministers and Shadow Ministers. The Mental Health Advocacy Day was organised by Mental Health Australia (MHA) of which the APS is a prominent member organisation and Lyn Littlefield is its Deputy Chair.
The delegation met with more than 40 parliamentarians across the political spectrum, advocating for strong policy commitment to mental health. In particular, the delegation called for the release of the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Services, followed by consultation with the mental health sector about improvements to the mental health system. The delegation also advocated for a cross party commitment to a 10-year reform plan for mental health, as well as funding certainty for Australians using community-based services.
The day-long series of meetings was well-received by politicians, who were very interested in the issues raised around mental health.
A number of members have rung with enquiries about the requirements under Medicare for managing clients on GP Mental Health Treatment Plans across the new calendar year. Some members are also receiving queries from referring GPs about whether the GP needs to prepare a new Mental Health Treatment Plan or provide a new referral when an existing client is going to continue to receive psychological services in 2015.
The requirements for Treatment Plans and referrals have not changed this year but there is often confusion amongst GPs and psychologists about how to interpret the requirements of the relevant Medicare item numbers.
Once an initial GP Mental Health Treatment Plan is in place, a new Plan should not be prepared unless clinically required and generally not within 12 months of a previous Plan. The GP can provide ongoing management through the GP Mental Health Treatment Consultation and Standard Consultation items, as required, and reviews of progress through the GP Mental Health Treatment Plan Review item. At these GP appointments, the GP can provide the client with a new referral for psychological services if the GP considers that the client requires additional psychological services (up to the calendar year entitlement of 10 sessions).
In summary, clients who were being managed by their GP under a Treatment Plan in 2014 who need to access further referred services during 2015 do not need to have a new Treatment Plan prepared unless required by the client’s clinical condition, needs or circumstances. There is also no need for a new referral unless the client has already received the number of sessions that was stipulated on the 2014 referral. If a client enters 2015 having used up all previously referred services, then the GP can provide a new referral if they consider that the client requires additional psychological services (up to the calendar year entitlement of 10 sessions).
It is important to note, that once the Treatment Plan is in place, the GP can use the referral process to access continued psychological services for the client (up to the calendar year maximum)– similar to a referral to any specialist.