Federal Government initiatives aim to improve access to health services for rural people

  • Medical practictioner holding older persons hand with outback image

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring Australia has a world class health system, supported by a highly trained, qualified and well distributed workforce. The Government recognises the importance of rural health and the varying challenges facing the regions and is strongly committed to improving access to health services for people living in rural and remote areas through support for front-line service delivery.

The Stronger Rural Health Strategy was announced as part of the 2018-19 Federal Budget and introduces a comprehensive package of initiatives to improve quality, workforce distribution and access to health services for all Australians.

The Stronger Rural Health Strategy aims to build a sustainable, high quality health workforce that is distributed across the country according to community need. The Strategy will change the face of primary health care service delivery, particularly in rural and remote communities, and other areas that have difficulty attracting doctors. It will also enable a stronger role for nurses and allied health professionals in the delivery of more multidisciplinary, team-based models of primary health care.

The elements of the strategy are:

Teaching:

  • The Murray–Darling Medical School Network and the expansion of the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program.

Training:

  • improved access to Australian trained specialist general practitioners;
  • streamlining general practice training and training future Rural Generalists;
  • support and training for 240 interns and 300 junior doctors to work in rural areas; and
  • support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health professional organisations to be expanded.

Recruitment and retention:

  • addressing doctor shortages across rural and remote areas by strengthening bonded programs;
  • supporting rural and remote areas through improved targeting of rural bulk billing incentives;
  • a targeted Workforce Incentive Program to support rural GPs, and the recruitment of allied health professionals;
  • a complementary Home Affairs measure (Visas for General Practitioners) will support better targeting of overseas trained doctors to areas of workforce shortage;
  • improved workforce distribution will be supported by a more sophisticated demand and supply planning tool - Health Demand and Supply Utilisation Patterns Planning (HeaDS UPP) Tool;
  • strengthening the role and raising awareness of nurses in primary health care;
  • reviewing how the nurse of the future is educated; and
  • guaranteeing rural and remote access to dental, mental health services and emergency aeromedical services through the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

For further information visit: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/stronger-rural-health-strategy-factsheets

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