Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce – Scope of practice review Response to Phase 1 stakeholder consultation survey

26 October 2023

Benefits of expanded scope of practice

Who can benefit from health professionals working to their full scope of practice?

Consumers, Funders, Health practitioners, Employers, Government/s

How can these groups benefit? Please provide references and links to any literature or other evidence.

Research suggests that regulating health professional scope of practice requires a balance between enabling flexibility and ensuring accountability. While regulation is only one of several key factors involved in influencing scope of health practitioner practice this is an important concept to have front of mind when considering the potential benefits, risks and enablers of scope of practice.

Flexibility allows health care teams to determine roles and responsibilities in alignment with population need, while accountability is essentially about protecting patient safety and ensuring practitioners work in line with the law and recognised standards of practice.1 In their assessment of regulatory approaches to health professional scope of practice across the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, the aforementioned researchers proposed that appropriate management resulted in both the efficient and effective deployment of health workforce; enabled innovation, allowing the workforce to be responsive to local needs; and facilitated collaboration amongst health professionals within teams.

On this background, we suggest that consumers, funders, health practitioners, employers and governments can all benefit from appropriate management of scope of practice, such that health professionals are able to work to the required breadth and depth of scope, as required by their context (see the answer to the following question for a definition of these terms). The specific components of this are elaborated on below.

  • Improved efficiency of care
    • reduction in unnecessary duplication of care and bureaucratic processes, saving time and money for consumers, health professionals and the health system.
    • appropriate delegation of tasks assists in workload management, which is important in the context of scarce workforce resources and makes financial sense.
    • improved productivity.
  • Improved work satisfaction as health professionals are doing more of what they are educated and competent to do, and more opportunities for career progression when there is room for health professionals to progress towards advanced practice roles over time, with positive flow-on effects on recruitment and retention within the profession and also in parts of the system offering these roles.[3]
  • Improved access to health care services,, including timeliness (reduced waitlists) and care closer to home
    • this is related to improved efficiency and the impact on recruitment and retention mentioned above.
    • perhaps also due to reduced cost (see below).
  • Reduced cost of care
    • more efficient care is likely to be cheaper for the health system (funders) and consumers alike.
    • more acute care in the hospital system is costly while improved access to primary health care, where there is the ability to focus on wellness and prevention (see below), is likely to reduce the reliance on the acute sector and reduce spending.
    • on health care over the long term.
  • Improved effectiveness of care – health professionals can focus on doing the things they do well and where their skills are most needed
    • better management of chronic disease by inclusion of the appropriate team members in care (eg. allied health).
    • improved patient experience of care due to its comprehensive nature and the ability for health professions to spend the time needed.
    • improved ability to focus on wellness and prevention when health professions have more time and can work to full breadth of practice.
  • Improved choice for consumers given the overlap of scopes of practice of different health professions in the Australian system.

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