The Federal Government has committed $327 million over four years to the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS).

The funding injection includes $84.1 million in new money will support existing fly-in and drive-in health services, as well as a new national mental health program.

“RFDS cared for 335,000 Australians last year in the air, on the ground, or via telehealth. Our aeromedical and dental services now have certainty. We can now also deliver a new mental health service to underserved country areas in all States and the Northern Territory,” RFDS CEO Dr Martin Laverty said.

The RFDS’ new national mental health program should be up and running by next year.

“We are intending to offer a mix of services where every day, flying doctors' clinics fly in with GPs, nurses, dentists, and now we will be able to add mental health staff as well,” Dr Laverty said.

“In addition, we will be running telehealth services and also look at ways of preventing mental illness occurring within communities.”

Rural and mental health advocates have welcomed the new project.

“Remote Australians see mental health professionals at one fifth the rate of city people,” said Mental Health Australia (MHA) CEO Frank Quinlan.

“Large parts of country Australia have no registered psychologists. This new funding for mental health care in remote Australia will help to fill that gap.”

National Farmers Federation (NFF) CEO Tony Mahar said; “Last year the NFF and RFDS surveyed farmers on what they needed most from health care. The answer was better access when needed, and mental health services in the bush. This new funding for the RFDS to do both is great”.

About $20 million of the additional funding will be used to provide dental services to people outside of metropolitan cities.