Have your say on scope of practice review

Scope of practice

The federal government is seeking submissions for its independent workforce review examining the barriers and incentives Australia’s health practitioners face working to their full scope of practice in primary care.

Launched last month, the Unleashing the Potential of our Heath Workforce Review, a recommendation of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, wants to hear what key stakeholders including the health workforce, consumers, health professions, regulators, and anyone with an interest in health practitioners’ scope of practice, think can help shape reform.

According to the review’s Terms of Reference, released this week, it will explore the system changes and practical changes needed to support greater productivity and improved, safe and affordable care for patients. With the right technology, innovation and regulation in place, the healthcare system can gain the full benefit of the workforce’s professional skills and expertise, it argues.

The specific objectives of the review are to:

  1. Identify alternative models of care to deliver safe, quality and accessible care to all Australians recognising that clarity in scopes of practice will support safe, quality care by all health professions.
  2. Build consensus and support for priority reforms to deliver increased access to high quality health services across health professionals, regulators, governments, professional bodies, peak bodies, insurers and consumer groups with a focus on primary care.
  3. Enable harmonised reform across Commonwealth and state and territory legislation, regulation, programs and funding approaches to support health professionals to work at full scope of practice.
  4. Identify examples of where the conditions have enabled multi-disciplinary teams to thrive and consistently work at the top of their scope of practice.
  5. Build the foundation for cultural change to enable health professionals to work to their full scope of practice, and to confidently collaborate with and refer to colleagues from other health professions who are safely working to full scope.
  6. Drive reforms that embed culturally safe care and multidisciplinary person-centred care as core practice for all health professionals.

If implemented, Terms of Reference state that recommendations from the review would deliver:

  • Better health and care outcomes for the Australian people, who will benefit from increased access to the full range of skills of their health professionals and improved collaboration between those health professionals.
  • Increased productivity of the health system and reduced wait times due to more health professionals working to their full scope of practice, including through preventative health care.
  • Better access to health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, rural and remote Australians and marginalised groups by maximising the safe and effective use of each profession.
  • Increased job satisfaction leading to improved retention and recruitment of health professionals with improved portability of health professionals across jurisdictions.

To kick-off, the review will look at evidence of health professionals working to, or being prevented from, exercising their full scope of practice in primary care. This takes into account benefits, risks, and challenges.

In announcing the callout for submissions this week, Health Minister Mark Butler said making sure Australia optimises its health workforce across a stretched primary care sector would lead to improved health access and equity across all communities.

“For too long, too many of our health workforce haven’t been able to work to their full potential,” Minister Butler said.

“Whether it is nurses, pharmacists or allied health professionals, in a global health workforce shortage we need everyone working as close as possible to the top of their scope.

“The review team, led by Professor Mark Cormack, will consult widely with stakeholders and analyse the available evidence before providing its recommendations to the Government. This is the first of many opportunities for input into this important review.”

Last month, ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler, who sits on the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, said it was crucial the review achieved its ultimate aim – to ensure all health professionals are fully utilised.

“Nurses and midwives, who comprise the majority of the healthcare workforce, have the capacity, expertise, and education to vastly improve health equity and access for people living in all areas of Australia,” Ms Butler said.

The review is currently seeking submissions from anyone with an interest in primary care. Submissions close on 16 October 2023. Click here to make a submission.

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