AHPA Insider: 28 February 2023

Strengthening Medicare Taskforce Report Released

The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report was released on 3 February. AHPA Chair and Taskforce member Antony Nicholas said “We encourage reforms that strengthen multidisciplinary team care and support funding mechanisms that allow allied health professionals to work to their full scope. However, we caution that reform without an implementation roadmap and a commitment to engaging with the allied health sector will ultimately result in more of the same.” You can read our full media release here.

Upon the report’s release, AHPA has been involved in several media placements, including articles in the Guardian, the SMH, and interviews with the ABC. Among many points, we highlighted the need to shift from GP reliant systems to reform that recognises the role of allied health and supports professionals to work to their full scope of practice.

The Australian Press Club also hosted a panel discussion; however, it was disappointing to see the panel only featured GPs with limiting GP focused discussion.

We are committed to working with the Australian Government to deliver the Taskforce recommendations. The impact of these recommendations is far-reaching for the health of all Australians. A clear implementation plan is the next step to reform.

Aged Care

Aged care policy and advocacy work continued with barely a pause over summer, with the ongoing rollout of reforms in response to the Royal Commission.

Our biggest concerns continue to be the lack of any benchmark and associated funding for provision of allied health on a needs basis in residential aged care. The most recent average ranges (depending on the source) from 2.36 to 6.36 total allied health minutes per resident per day – significantly less than the 8 minutes that concerned the Royal Commission, and less than a quarter of the 22 minutes recommended by the developers of the AN-ACC residential aged care funding tool.

To genuinely identify older peoples’ allied health needs also requires a nationally consistent care assessment and planning tool in both residential and in-home care, and delivering allied health services by multidisciplinary teams.

AHPA recently met with Minister Wells and attended the quarterly meeting of the National Aged Care Alliance to discuss these issues. We emphasised that allied health must be a key feature of aged care, along with personal care and nursing – not a luxury item or optional extra.

Another closely related area of work for us is aged care quality and safety. Allied health providers should be able to look to an independent regulator to guarantee needs-based allied health across Australia. AHPA made submissions to the Capability Review of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and on the Draft Inspector-General of Aged Care Bill.

NDIS

The current NDIS Review was an opportunity for AHPA to reiterate allied health concerns such as over-regulation, under-pricing, and the fact that the services allied health professionals provide are not always given appropriate status and recognition by NDIA planners.

As with the care and support sectors generally, we need much better collection and analysis of allied health service data, so we can better plan what kinds of services are needed, and where. AHPA is working with the NDIA to try to improve this.

Mental Health

AHPA and many of our member individual profession peak bodies were active contributors to the Better Access Evaluation Stakeholder Engagement Group. We had a mixed response to the Final Report of the Evaluation  and so were pleased to attend the Mental Health Equity and Access forum convened by Ministers Mark Butler and Emma McBride last month.

There is much to be done, including deciding how the full scope of our diverse allied health workforce can be best utilised in Australia’s current mental health crisis.

Workforce

AHPA is invested in developing better knowledge of the allied health workforce due to the policy implications it has for the sector.

The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report made several recommendations that will impact our future allied health workforce, including developing new funding models that are locally relevant for sustainable practice, fast-tracking work to improve the supply and distribution of health professionals,  and increasing commissioning of allied health services by PHNs.

Efficiently and effectively delivering on these recommendations requires accurate, knowledge of the workforce, especially the allied health and nursing workforce, that are expected to supplement general practice teams in underserved communities. With little comprehensive understanding, effective policy advocacy and workforce planning cannot proceed.

This data, and the challenges of collecting it, will be used to continue our advocacy for the development of a national minimum workforce dataset, and the development of a national allied health workforce strategy.

In 2023, we are looking to collaborate with our members to help streamline and standardise workforce data collection. If your organisation is keen to participate, please reach out to Leo Di Giorgio.

Digital Health

AHPA is working closely with the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) on a series of projects and providing input into key working groups, committees and councils aimed at rapidly progressing the integration of Allied Health Clinical Information into interoperable digital infrastructure systems.

All current digital health initiatives and advocacy are required to enable realisation of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce recommendations. Connected multidisciplinary teams are not possible without integration of allied health into digital infrastructure that enables health information to be available at the point of care in a secure and efficient manner.

Current projects include a focus on:

  • Establishing and facilitating an Allied Health Digital Health Reference Group, which will create the long-term strategy required to achieve suitable levels of integration and access for Allied Health Professionals into My Health Record.
  • Determining the clinical data requirements which will enable sharing of critical allied health professional practice information within My Health Record as soon as possible.
  • Ensuring suitable access to My Health Record for Allied Health Professionals who contract into Aged Care services is facilitated.

ADHA hope to pilot introduction of an Aged Care Transfer Summary document within My Health Record in September 2023 in collaboration with Aged Care.