The biggest challenges in health care in Australia are related to the ageing of the population, the increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases, the tyranny of distance in rural and remote areas, and the escalating costs of health care.
The growth of the ageing population and the incidence of acute and chronic mental health problems in the ageing population require innovative and substantial solutions. Psychogeriatric clinicians are best placed to respond to this growing demand. However, throughout Australia, psychogeriatric services are under-developed, and only a minority of older people with mental health problems can access specialised psychiatric care (Slade et al, 2009).
In metropolitan Sydney and across NSW psychogeriatric services are developing gradually, but are unlikely to meet the needs of the ageing population in the near future. Formal health care services of all types in regional and remote areas in Australia generally decrease as a function of the distance from the nearest capital city, and the number of medical, nursing and allied health care professionals generally decreases accordingly (AIHW, 2008a; AIHW, 2008b; Keane et al, 2008). Unfortunately for the people living in rural and remote areas, it has been demonstrated that the level of psychological symptoms in the population is generally higher in rural and remote areas, and correlates with increasing isolation (Kelly et al, 2010).
The psychogeriatric needs of the ageing population in rural and remote areas are currently addressed by primary care professionals, residential care professionals, adult mental health professionals, and by a small number of trained psychogeriatric professionals (AIHW, 2008a; AIHW, 2008b; Keane et al, 2008).
With the appropriate expert support in the form of information, education and supervision, all these professionals could be assisted to better manage the psychogeriatric needs of their ageing population locally, as the lead clinicians.
Psychogeriatric SOS can provide this expertise to health professionals in rural and remote and under-resourced areas in NSW via web-conferencing technology.