How long and how much? Wait times and costs for initial private child mental health appointments

Melissa Mulraney (Lead / Corresponding author), Cindy Lee, Gary Freed, Michael Sawyer, David Coghill, Emma Sciberras, Daryl Efron, Harriet Hiscock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


AIM: To determine: (i) wait times and out-of-pocket costs for children attending private specialists for initial mental health appointments; and (ii) whether these differed between specialists working in metropolitan versus rural areas and in low, medium and high socio-economic areas.

METHODS: Prospective secret shopper study whereby a researcher posed as a parent seeking an appointment for her child with anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. We contacted 317 private paediatrician, psychiatrist and psychologist practices in Victoria and South Australia between 12 March and 5 May 2019.

RESULTS: One third (29.8%) of private practices were closed to new referrals. The average wait times for paediatricians, psychiatrists, and psychologists were 44, 41 and 34 days, respectively. Average out-of-pocket costs quoted were AU$120 for paediatricians, AU$176 for psychiatrists and AU$85 for psychologists.

CONCLUSION: Parents face extensive wait times and substantial out-of-pocket costs when seeking private mental health services for their child.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-532
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Issue number4
Early online date10 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2021


  • Appointments and Schedules
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Prospective Studies
  • South Australia
  • Victoria
  • Waiting Lists
  • cost
  • wait time
  • health service
  • mental health
  • child

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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