What does the Federal Budget mean for allied health?

Published 12 May 2023

On Tuesday 9 May the Albanese Government handed down its first full year budget. It included significant investments in healthcare, digital health, aged care and disability to ensure a ‘strong sustainable care economy’.

We have compiled the key announcements and measures relevant to allied health. 

Our media release is also available here.

Allied Health Workforce Strategy  

First and foremost, we start with the disappointing news that no funding has been allocated to develop an allied health workforce strategy. Implementation of reforms across health, disability and aged care without adequate workforce planning is unlikely to yield high return for consumers and health professionals.  

Strengthening Medicare  

The Budget’s health measures were largely in response to the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report released in February. We welcome the recognition that multidisciplinary teams are key to consumer-centered care. AHPA hopes to see the investments from the Budget backed by an achievable implementation plan that meaningfully involves allied health.  

Primary Health Network Commissioning of Multidisciplinary Teams 

  • $79.4 million over four years to 2026-27 to strengthen the role PHNs play in commissioning multidisciplinary health care teams to improve the management of chronic conditions and reduce avoidable hospitalisations
  •  Multidisciplinary allied health case conferencing items (MBS items 82001, 82002 and 82003) will be amended to increase access for people that have, or are suspected of having, a complex neurodevelopmental disorder or eligible disability. The age will be raised from 13 to 25 and will be implemented on 1 March 2024
  • $17.1 million over four years to extend PHNs’ existing role in general practice support to private allied health, nursing, nurse practitioner and midwifery practices. Part of this package is $235,000 in 2023-24 to develop an allied health practice support toolkit and ongoing funding to deliver practice support to allied health (including non-dispensing pharmacists), nursing and midwifery practices. 

AHPA is pleased to see an investment in PHNs in commissioning multidisciplinary health care. However, whilst optimistic about the strengthened role PHNs may play in building sustainable regional models of care; AHPA cautions against a ‘one-size-fits all model’. We look forward to working closely with PHNs as they begin to comprehensively commission allied health services. 

Workforce Incentive Program (WIP) 

  • More than $400 million over four years from 2023–24 to improve the quality and accessibility of multidisciplinary primary care and improve financial sustainability of multidisciplinary general practice by immediately increasing all payments under the Workforce Incentive Program – Practice Stream (WIP-PS). 

AHPA supports this investment. However, there have been concerns about the WIP since its inception. It undermines the employment model of private allied health, and there is no evidence that the employment of allied health professionals under the WIP has improved access to multidisciplinary care.  

There must be accountability for how the funding is used, coupled with a robust evaluation. The absence of accountability measures and detailed evaluation will result in cyclical inaction.  

Digital health investment 

  • $6.1 million targeted investment to increase allied health professionals’ connection to My Health Record (MHR) 
  • Broad investment across digital infrastructure and education campaigns signals to allied health professionals the future importance of prioritising digital ways of working  
  • The Government have a significant opportunity to improve care outcomes for consumers by ensuring allied health are integrated to all digital health initiatives from the outset. 

This support has the potential to improve communication between health professionals and more efficiently inform clinical decision making at the time of care; improving outcomes whilst empowering the consumer with access and knowledge and reducing their need to repeat their clinical story. 

When combined with the Government’s broader focus to invest in digital infrastructure within programs such as the new Support at Home Program and the National Disability Data Asset, this demonstrates how important digital ways of working, and contributing to and accessing these government initiatives will be for AHPs and their businesses.  

Scope of Practice Review  

  • $3 million in 2023-24 and 2024-25 to undertake a review that examines current models of care against community needs and recommends appropriate expansion to scopes of practices and models of care for a range of health professionals providing primary care services (both registered and self-regulated, including medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, and allied health). 

AHPA is pleased to see to see both registered and self-regulated practitioners included and is optimistic that this review will demonstrate models of care where allied health professionals add capacity to an already stretched system. If we can also secure accompanying funding, this has the potential to improve the performance of the healthcare system. 

Aged Care 

Significant commitments include government funding for the increase to award wages for nursing and care staff and implementing regulatory reform of aged care. However, there continues to be no dedicated funding for allied health care. 

Despite this, there are elements of the Budget that the Government could use to engage with the allied health sector to improve residential aged care.  

  • $139.9 million over 4 years from 2023–24 to improve the accountability and transparency of approved aged care providers through enhancements to the Star Rating system
  • $72.3 million in 2023–24 to support the development and implementation of a new, stronger Aged Care Regulatory Framework to support the new Age Care Act which is due to commence from 1 July 2024  
  • $25.3 million in 2023–24 to ensure the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) is appropriately resourced to deliver its audit and compliance program in 2023–24 
  • $12.9 million over two years from 2023–24 to improve food and nutrition in aged care through the development, monitoring and enforcement of food and nutritional standards  

We look forward to working with the Department of Health and Aged Care to implement meaningful evidence-based data gathering of indicators that will empower consumers when they come to rely on the rating system. 

AHPA also welcome funding for the Commission’s compliance work and the capability review of the ACQSC. AHPA hopes that this signals the ACQSC to become a strong and effective regulator to maintain standards and protect vulnerable residents.

Additionally, adequate nutrition is vital to the maintenance of all aspects of residents’ health and wellbeing. Our members look forward to contributing to the development of processes to monitor and enforce these standards. 

NDIS and Disability 

  • NDIS funding to focus on a sustainable scheme whilst improving outcomes, how this is achieved will need to be co-designed with allied health professionals for success 
  • Allied health professionals will need to be involved across the multiple topics identified which will be addressed to achieve the Governments goals for the NDIS 

AHPA supports the Government’s focus on sustainability of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) while facilitating quality outcomes for people with disability. However, we highlight that allied health involvement is essential for key initiatives, including: 

  • Blended payment models 
  • Service innovation 
  • Effective outcome measurement 
  • Increased use of evidence-based supports  
  • Access to quality, safe services throughout the country 

AHPA looks forward to working with the Agency and Quality and Safeguards Commission and assisting with co-designing new solutions.  

We caution that goals can only be achieved if solutions ensure the person with disability and their families remain at the centre of the initiative, and the solutions can be readily implemented by allied health professionals whilst sustaining their business.  

Rural and First Nations Health 

  • $47.2 million over five years to trial integrating services and explore the use of joint commissioning across primary health, disability, aged care, and veterans’ care sectors in up to ten locations to improve access to services, including allied health, in rural and remote locations and First Nations communities
  • Access will be streamlined to the 10 allied health services for First Nations Australians with a chronic condition, or following a Health Assessment, through MBS items 10950–10970, 93000, 93013, and 81300–81360, 93048 and 93061 

We support the trialling of service integration in rural and remote and First Nations communities. With appropriate implementation, this could significantly improve access to services.  

Long COVID  

AHPA is concerned that funding support to help people with long COVID has been limited to extending existing measures for this calendar year. Commonwealth funding for Healthdirect’s Living with COVID service will end on 31 December 2023 and funding to support digital mental health services to meet increased demand driven by COVID will end this financial year.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry investigating the impact of long COVID made a suite of recommendations to support people with long COVID. AHPA’s submission to the House of Representatives Committee inquiry into long COVID is available to read here. 

Chronic Disease Management (CDM) Items Changes 

From 1 November 2024, the GP CDM planning and review items will be restructured. The current GP Management Plan (GPMP) and Team Care Arrangement (TCA) will be consolidated into a new CDM planning item.  

There will be transition arrangements from 1 November 2024 to 31 October 2026 to allow patients to transition to the new CDM plans. Patients will be able to continue to access allied health services using their existing GPMPs and TCAs during the transition period.  

Mental Health  

The $586.9 million investment into mental health included significant funding for psychologists, and allocated funding to upskill the broader health workforce in identifying and responding to mental health issues.  

AHPA is pleased to see $300,000 for the development of national standards for counsellors and psychotherapists to improve their utilisation across a range of settings and hopes to see allied health prominently involved in the development of these standards

This package provides $91.3 million over four years to immediately address acute bottlenecks in the psychology training pipeline, including: 

  • $56.0 million to subsidise over 5,000 postgraduate psychology places in relevant areas of endorsed practice, including 500 new places
  • $27.7 million to fund 500 one-year internships for provisional psychologists in the 5+1 pathway
  • $5.9 million to provide 2,000 fully subsidised supervisor training sessions, including 1,000 refresher places
  • $1.2 million for an independent evaluation of the measures to inform future policy and programs to grow the psychology workforce; and  
  • $300,000 to redesign psychology higher education pathways in partnership with the sector to support longer term reform  

This Budget provides $17.8 million over three years to upskill the broader health workforce in mental health. Measures include: 

  • $9.2 million to continue the Mental Health Professionals Network and the Mental Health Professional Online Development Program 
  • $6.8 million to continue Mental Health First Aid training for 7,800 medical students and extend the initiative to 55,500 nursing, midwifery and allied health students
  • $1.4 million to ensure undergraduate nurses, midwives and allied health students receive contemporary training in mental health

 What’s Next?  

AHPA welcomes the Government’s investment in health as the first steps to significant improvement. We are optimistic this investment will be backed by adequate planning and action.

AHPA will continue to advocate for the development of a consumer-centred health system that recognises and meaningfully includes allied health, where consumers are informed, empowered, and prioritised.