Once you have completed the MHTP, you may refer your patient for treatment to a range of eligible mental health practitioners. The first referral is provided as part of the development of the MHTP and so does not have it’s own MBS item number. The referral may be in the form of a letter or note signed and dated by you as the referring GP.
A GPMHTP is not a referral and alone is not sufficient for the mental health practitioner to provide the service.
The referral letter can be directed to the mental health practitioner by name or may be addressed generically to ‘the psychologist’. According to advice from Medicare, “The legislation does not require that a referral be addressed to a named health professional. If a referral is addressed to one provider, the patient is not obliged to use that provider. They can see another practitioner to provide the service.”
Each referral is for a course of treatment and you may refer for up to 6 services for each course of treatment. However, if the referral does not specify the number of sessions, under the Better Access initiative the mental health practitioner can assume it is for six sessions.
Referrals are valid for the number of treatment services identified, regardless of whether your patient chooses to change their mental health practitioner under the same referral or if it takes them several years to use all the services indicated by the referral.
Your patient will need a new referral for each course of treatment. A new referral can be billed using MBS item 2713, a treatment consultation where the primary issue is mental health that lasts more than 20 minutes.
Regardless of the number of services you refer for your patient, they are only able to access 10 individual and 10 group sessions per calendar year.
It is a common misconception that patients may only access one set of 10 sessions within 12 months of the original referral. This results in many patients experiencing disruptions to the continuity of their therapy. However, there is no requirement to wait until the anniversary of the first referral before referring your patient for another course of treatment and you may provide another referral as soon as required after the new calendar year when their sessions reset to 10 available.
The referral should include: your patient’s symptoms; the number of treatment services your patient can receive; a statement about whether your patient has a MHTP, shared care plan or a psychiatrist assessment and management plan; the date; your signature; and your provider number.
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