Targeting incentives to attract more doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to rural areas

  • Practice nurse with young patient

Photo: Department of Health

While there is an oversupply of doctors in some urban areas, there are still shortages in some regional, rural and remote areas. The Australian Government needs to attract not only doctors to these areas but also nurses, allied health professionals and Aboriginal Health Workers, to better manage patients with complex and chronic conditions.

Under the Government’s Stronger Rural Health Strategy, the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP) will target financial incentives to address workforce shortages in specific geographic areas, giving patients in regional, rural and remote areas better access to quality medical, nursing and allied health services.

Over 5,000 practices and more than 7,000 doctors will be eligible for incentive payments under the WIP.

From 1 July 2019 the WIP will replace the Practice Nurse Incentive Program (PNIP) and the General Practice Rural Incentives Program (GPRIP). General practices and doctors already participating in the PNIP and the GPRIP will automatically transition to the WIP on 30 June 2019.

Funding under the WIP will be available in two streams. Under the WIP-Doctor Stream incentives will be available to eligible doctors (GPRIP will transition to this stream). Under the WIP-Practice Stream incentives will be available to eligible practices (PNIP will transition to this stream).

Doctor Stream
The Doctor Stream is aimed at making it more attractive for doctors to provide primary care services in regional, rural and remote areas, and rewarding them more the longer they stay.

The incentive payment under the Doctor Stream will be calculated as it currently is under the GPRIP. Calculation of payments is based on activity levels within eligible locations and the length of time a doctor has been on the program. Eligibility requirements for the Doctor Stream will remain the same as those under GPRIP.

Practice Stream
Financial incentives will also be available to support eligible general practices, as well as Aboriginal Medical Services and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, to engage the services of health professionals, including, but not limited to, nurses, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers/Practitioners, and allied health professionals, including non-dispensing pharmacists.

The Practice Stream will promote multidisciplinary and team based models of care by supporting practices to engage eligible health professionals. Practices should consider the needs of their community when determining which health professionals or combination of health professionals to engage. Communities will receive the greatest benefit from the new arrangements where they are complementary to existing services or fill gaps, rather than duplicating services already available.

Practices will have flexibility to engage, one or a combination of, health professionals based on community need, through contracted casual or other means. For example they could:
•    employ a nurse to work specified hours per week at the practice; and/or
•    engage a local allied health professional to provide services one day per week to community members who cannot afford private practice services; and/or
•    engage a nurse or allied health professional, relative to their clinical skills, to provide services, for example orthopaedic screening, or community education sessions such as diabetes education.

WIP Program Guidelines are being developed and will be available on the Department of Health website prior to 1 July 2019. The guidelines will contain detailed information about how the WIP will operate for the Doctor Stream and Practice Stream.

 

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