Scope of Practice Review Issues Paper Two: Allied health concerns

Published 11 June 2024

AHPA commends the Scope of Practice Review team on the broad consultation and research undertaken to develop Issues Paper Two and the associated policy reform options.

The Issues Paper provides a comprehensive summary of the issues preventing allied health professionals from working to their full scope of practice, and the detrimental impact of the complex and interlinking set of legislative, regulatory, and funding factors currently limiting the roles and contributions of the sector. 

Allied health concerns

While AHPA broadly supports the proposed policy options as a foundation for addressing the barriers identified in the paper, we argue that the there is a need to shift how we think about primary care and the role of the allied health sector.  

The current suggestions are more conservative in nature than needed, particularly in relation to funding reform. We are concerned that the key policy options may exacerbate rather than minimise existing barriers experienced by allied health professions without a firmer commitment to allied health-focused funding reform:  

  • Reform options for direct referral and request by allied health professions are limited and fail to set out a clear pathway for evidence-based expansion. Rather than arbitrarily limiting access, expanded referral and request options will be best supported by quality measures that educate and guide practitioners.
     
  • Funding reforms focus on general practice-centred models and options for cashing out existing funding rather than recognising that allied health professionals are at the centre of many primary care patient pathways. For allied health practitioners to practice at their full scope, Medicare funding for allied health services must be expanded.
     
  • Recommendations for the implementation of policy reform options provided centre on the National Law as an enabler and set out no clear pathway for inclusion of the self-regulating health professions.

    An additional dedicated review of self-regulation focused on legislative enablement of the regulatory role of self-regulating health professions as well as title protection based on enrolment of all clinicians in regulatory schemes is essential and should be included as a key policy reform option by the Review team in their final report. 

 What needs to happen now?

Strong leadership from the Commonwealth is crucial to driving implementation of the policy options and enabling full scope practice by allied health professionals. 

Change will require better representation of non-medical professions in the Commonwealth by appointing and resourcing a Commonwealth Chief Allied Health Officer at a level that equates to that of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer. Clinical advisory bodies supporting government will also need more representative membership from allied health and other non-medical professions. 

Recognition that primary care pathways may primarily involve allied health professionals in primary coordinating roles will be key to more effective and efficient care and support. That will also require an urgent focus on developing and implementing trials of new funding options for allied health multidisciplinary care that provide expanded and more flexible funding for consumers. 

AHPA looks forward to supporting the next phase of the Scope of Practice Review and working with government to implement the findings from the Review and supporting genuine multidisciplinary service models in primary care. 

The full AHPA response  submission can be found here.