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Breaking down barriers to primary care access with multidisciplinary teams


AHPA supports primary care reform in Australia but calls for proper implementation and recognition of the importance of allied health and access to digital technologies for improved healthcare.

Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) welcomes the release of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce Report and supports the commitment of the Albanese Government to reform the primary care system, to which allied health is key.

Recognising the value of multidisciplinary primary care is long overdue. AHPA Chair and Taskforce member Antony Nicholas said, “We encourage reforms that strengthen multidisciplinary team care and support funding mechanisms that allow allied health professionals to work to their full scope.

“However, we caution that reform without an implementation roadmap and a commitment to engaging with the allied health sector will ultimately result in more of the same.”

AHPA is particularly concerned with the recommendation to increase investment in the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP).

AHPA CEO Bronwyn Morris-Donovan said, “There is no evidence that the employment of allied health professionals under the WIP has improved access to multidisciplinary care.”

“The allied health sector has opposed the WIP since its inception – it undermines the entire employment model of private allied health. The Government is taking a general practice incentive payment and calling it a win for multidisciplinary team care. It is a not a win for consumers or allied health. It shows there is still no real understanding of how to build a system that genuinely puts consumers at the centre.”

While AHPA strongly supports greater investment into PHNs to strengthen their capacity to commission allied health services, it should not be seen as a mechanism to ‘supplement general practice teams.’ We must move on from the notion that general practice is the only setting where primary care takes place.

There are thousands of allied health professionals working in the community in small private practices. The idea that bundling services under one roof are the antidote to fragmented care is fanciful. Coordinated care requires all parts of the primary health care system to work as a team, supported by appropriate resources, including connected digital technologies.

Although we welcome recommendations to modernise the My Health Record (MHR), allied health must be given access to, and considered in the development of all digital development.

Morris-Donovan said “We must not forget that allied health professionals cannot contribute critical health information into the MHR, or choose suitable clinical information systems (CIS) that are interoperable with MHR.

“If Minister Butler is serious about improving continuity, quality and safety in health care, then bringing allied health into the digital ecosystem must urgently be addressed.

AHPA believes it is vital that allied health professionals are recognised for their work alongside the medical and nursing communities and for their potential to help shape and implement the healthcare system of the future. Supporting allied health professionals and making allied health services accessible will ensure that Australia has an integrated, comprehensive healthcare system that delivers world-class care.

“As it stands, the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce digital recommendations offer no reassurance that allied health will be prioritised.”

Additionally, while AHPA is supportive of recommendations to ‘fast-track’ the supply and distribution of the health workforce, we caution about how this can be achieved.

“There is no consistent collection and integration of allied health workforce data. This means the Government cannot confirm vital information about allied health professionals and their roles, resulting in fragmented, inconsistent approaches to workforce and service planning,” AHPA Chair Antony Nicholas said.

“The impact of this is poor access to essential allied health services, especially for people in rural and remote areas and people with chronic conditions.”

Changes in funding and infrastructure to Australia’s health systems that allow for consumer-centred primary care and equity of access to all Australians need to happen now.

Allied Health Professions Australia is committed to working with the Australian Government to deliver the Taskforce recommendations. The impact of these recommendations is far-reaching for the health of all Australians. A clear implementation plan is a next step to reform.

Media release from the Allied Health Professions AustraliaNote: Content has been edited for style and length.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.


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