A patient talking to an RFDS staff member on the beach.

Graphic: A patient talking to an RFDS staff member on the beach.

The Flying Doctor's Mental Health Service provides $30 to $1 return

Date published

05 Jun 2023

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) Mental Health and Wellbeing Service (MHWS) is providing a $30 to $1 return in social value to areas of Cape York, according to an independent review released today.

RFDS staff

The two-phased analysis, conducted from March through September 2022 by Freestone Associates and Pamele Analytics, provides evidence of the profound impact the Flying Doctor’s MHWS program is having on individuals, local organisations, and regional communities.

Importantly, it demonstrates that as part of a coordinated care approach, the RFDS helps make critical and culturally appropriate services more accessible within areas of Cape York.

The review identified a range of benefits including improved mental health and wellbeing for individuals, reduced alcohol and drug use, a decrease in family violence and a reduction in stigma around mental health issues.

RFDS (Queensland Section) Executive General Manager Nursing and Clinical Services Lee Poole said that in light of the well-documented inequality of mental health services between urban and rural or remote areas, the review demonstrated that the Flying Doctor’s MHWS supports positive change.

RFDS staff talking to parent and child

“The fact that every $1 dollar investment in RFDS MHWS is providing a net social value of $29.95, highlights the potential for this program to provide greater life-changing outcomes for even more Queenslanders,” Mr Poole said.

“The analysis showed that the Flying Doctor’s tailored MHWS approach within areas of Cape York almost always resulted in at least one positive benefit but also often had a ripple effect that facilitated multiple and compounding outcomes,”

“It’s particularly encouraging that we can support true gains for Indigenous Australians, who account for more than two-thirds (68%) of the Cape York population,” he said.

The qualitative analysis of feedback collated from individuals, their families, local organisations and community stakeholders, showed that the RFDS’s successful approach was largely achieved through three key factors; (1) a capable and experienced mix of people (2) culturally appropriate and localised context and (3) the ability to build trust through consistent and reliable modelling.

RFDS (Queensland Section) Manager Mental Health and Wellbeing Jos Middleton said she was humbled to read through the ‘Stories of Change’ feedback shared within the review.

“The best part of our job is seeing the progress being made in the communities so being able to understand the big picture impact is truly inspiring,” Ms Middleton said.

RFDS Primary Health Care Services

“Armed with this review, we have the ability to hone in on the unique capabilities of our tailored approach to provide greater value back to the communities we serve,”

“Since receiving the review, we’ve revisited the areas that we can see provide the most impact to ensure we continue to deliver good work and help bridge the divide,” she said.

RFDS Mental Health and Wellbeing Services (MHWS) has been operating under Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) funding since 2018. The service is provided across 14 communities, of which five were selected by external reviewers to help understand the true impact of its MHWS over the past four years.

As well as individual support, the RFDS program also delivers activities focused on increasing the community’s capacity to understand and support people with mental health concerns. 

This includes RFDS involvement in various training initiatives including a range of Mental Health First Aid Training and Indigenous-specific packages, community forums, participation in groups such as men’s groups and women’s groups as well as community events like Mental Health Week.

Find more information on RFDS MHWS here.