National Rural Health Commissioner

Page last updated: 05 July 2019

A request for feedback from the National Rural Health Commissioner: Policy Options to Improve Access, Distribution and Quality of Rural Allied Health Services


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In December 2018, the former Minister responsible for Rural Health, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie requested that I develop advice regarding the current priorities for improving the access, distribution and quality of rural and remote allied health services across Australia. I was asked to consult with the allied health sector, including preparing this discussion paper, in order to gather formal feedback.

As the National Rural Health Commissioner, I am an independent statutory officer. The views expressed in this discussion paper do not represent an official position of the Commonwealth Department of Health or the Australian Government. Publication of this document does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Health or indicate a commitment to a particular course of action.

The discussion paper represents the contributions of a diverse range of allied health practitioners, researchers, teachers and health service leaders in rural and remote communities and has been developed in close consultation with allied health peak bodies, health representatives in government, industry and health professional associations. These contributions were considered alongside a detailed review of 20 years of published rural allied health literature.

In my many visits across Australia, I have witnessed the incredibly valuable service that our current rural allied health workers provide to rural and remote Australians. I have heard a range of issues along with options to improve access, distribution and the quality of rural allied health services for the communities they serve.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the participants I have met with for their contribution to the development of this discussion paper and to acknowledge the value of their ongoing feedback and involvement in policy development and implementation.

I am now seeking formal feedback on the options described in the discussion paper. I invite you to provide your feedback and responses to the questions posed throughout the document by 7 August 2019.

Following this consultation period, a formal report will be prepared with recommendations for consideration by the current Minister responsible for Rural Health, the Hon Mark Coulton, in October 2019.

Professor Paul Worley
National Rural Health Commissioner

Download your copy of the Discussion Paper for Consultation
Rural Allied Health Quality, Access and Distribution: Options for Commonwealth Government Policy Reform and Investment (PDF 1255 KB)
Rural Allied Health Quality, Access and Distribution: Options for Commonwealth Government Policy Reform and Investment (Word 814KB)

Send your feedback and responses to: NRHC@health.gov.au

Or by post:

Attention: National Rural Health Commissioner
Department of Health
GPO Box 9848
CANBERRA ACT 2601

For further information contact: NRHC@health.gov.au

A message from the National Rural Health Commissioner: Advice from the National Rural Generalist Pathway Taskforce


Professor Paul WorleyAs this year draws to a close I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on my work this year in providing advice to government on the development of a National Rural Generalist Pathway (the Pathway).

In my many visits across Australia I have been conscious of the incredibly valuable service that our current rural medical workforce, including overseas trained doctors, provides to rural and remote communities. I have heard the urgency of their calls for a National Rural Generalist Pathway to support their current practice and provide a sustainable future workforce. At the same time, students, junior doctors and registrars have told me that that they require a structured, supported Pathway to gain the skills they need for rural and remote practice.

In order to provide recommendations regarding the Pathway, I formed the National Rural Generalist Pathway Taskforce to bring together the best minds across the country and to hear all of the perspectives on this work. The Taskforce then appointed a number of working groups and expert reference groups, to bring further depth and breadth to this work. It is my pleasure to provide to you the Taskforce Advice to the National Rural Health Commissioner on the Development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway. The Advice and recommendations are the culmination of extensive consultation at a national, jurisdictional and local level and represent the contributions of more than 200 expert stakeholders across the country.

I am so thankful for the time, insight, and goodwill that so many have contributed to this work, providing me with a plan for the Pathway that includes how to make the Pathway, and the career, for a Rural Generalist both attractive and effective. The advice paper has been submitted to the Australian Government, and I am pleased to report the Department of Health will now work with jurisdictions and stakeholders to consider the implementation of the recommendations.

From myself and my team we wish you a happy, restful and safe Christmas and New Year and I look forward to continuing this work in 2019.

Professor Paul Worley
National Rural Health Commissioner

The Advice to the National Rural Health Commissioner on the Development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway is available on the website.

The National Rural Health Commissioner (the Commissioner) is an independent, statutory office holder, appointed under Part VA of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (the Act), which was passed by both Houses of Parliament on 21 June 2017 and came into effect by Proclamation of the Governor General on 1 August 2017.

The Commissioner was established as part of the Government’s broader agenda to reform rural health in Australia, and will provide policy advice to the Minister responsible for rural health.

Role of the Commissioner

The Commissioner will work with regional, rural and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of government to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.

The rural health workforce and communities located in rural and remote areas will benefit from the introduction of the Commissioner who will place rural and remote issues at the forefront of government decision making.

The priorities of work being undertaken by the Commissioner include:

  • Working with rural, regional and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of government to improve rural health policies;
  • Assisting the Government to better target interventions in regional, rural and remote areas to support access to services and quality of services;
  • Developing and defining new National Rural Generalist Pathways;
  • Working with the health sector and training providers to define what it is to be a Rural Generalist. This includes developing options for increased access to training and appropriate remuneration for Rural Generalists, recognising their extra skills and workload;
  • Consulting with stakeholders to give consideration to the needs of the entire rural health workforce, including but not limited to nursing, dental health, pharmacy, Indigenous health, mental health, midwifery, occupational therapy, physical therapy and allied health;
  • If requested by the Minister, consulting with state and territory governments to identify, assess and develop policy options to address current or emerging regional, rural and remote health reform opportunities on a national level, and to ensure effective information exchange across jurisdictions;
  • Liaising with national peak professional organisations, consumer organisations, rural health stakeholders and other advisory committees in developing solutions that reflect community needs;
  • Providing national leadership for regional, rural and remote health, and work with the Government to progress nationally agreed goals in the sector, including flexible models of service delivery and workforce development, best practice approaches, and future national policy responses.

As part of the legislative requirements under the Act, the Commissioner will prepare and present to the Minister draft and final reports about his functions that includes advice and recommendations. The Commissioner will also prepare and give to the Minister annual reports about his functions during the previous calendar year.

The Minister for Rural Health, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, outlined her Statement of Expectations for the functions of the Commissioner.

Legislation

The National Rural Health Commissioner is appointed under Part VA of the Health Insurance Act 1973.

What the Commissioner does not do

The Commissioner does not get involved in individual cases or advocate for individual people or groups. Instead the Commissioner will champion rural health, advocate for system wide improvement in achieving rural health outcomes for regional, rural and remote communities of Australia.

The office of the National Rural Health Commissioner is not a fund holding body. The Commissioner does not provide services, grants or funding for unsolicited projects or campaigns.

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