NP scheme aims to boost primary care support

A new plan for nurse practitioners has been developed to strengthen multidisciplinary, person-centred care in health and aged care settings.

A new plan for nurse practitioners has been developed to enhance multidisciplinary, person-centred care in health and aged care settings, the government announced this week.

Called the Nurse Practitioner Workforce Plan, the initiative “will offer a clear vision on how to better use nurse practitioners to meet the needs of a growing and ageing population,” according to a statement released from the office of Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney (centre) launching the Nurse Practitioner Workforce Plan in Melbourne Tuesday

“Nurse practitioners are so valuable,” said Ms Kearney. “They’re connected to their communities in a unique and important way. We want everyone to be able to access quality care in a primary health setting and supporting our nurse practitioners is a critical part of that.”

She added: “For too long nurse practitioners have faced barriers to providing the care that they are trained and want to deliver. The plan reaffirms our commitment to nurturing and supporting the workforce so that they can use their expertise across aged care, primary care, mental health, private practice and in hospitals.”

Nurse practitioners are highly qualified nurses who work autonomously at an advanced level of practice. Among their duties, NPs assess and diagnose patients, request and interpret tests, prescribe medications, and receive and make referrals to other health practitioners.

This will be the first time a national approach has been developed to best utilise Australia’s NP workforce.

The plan sets out:

  • actions to increase nurse practitioner services across the country
  • increase community awareness of what services nurse practitioners provide
  • grow the workforce to reflect the diversity of the community and improve cultural safety.

The plan also includes a $50 million scholarship program to encourage nurses to undertake post-graduate study and support registered nurses to become nurse practitioners.

Under the plan, primary care services will be incentivised to supervise nurse practitioner students and to support NPs moving to other areas of advanced practice as a way of encouraging NPs to choose careers in primary care settings.

By abandoning bureaucracy, it will also address the significant barriers that have prevented NPs from performing all the duties they are trained to do.

As well, Medicare rebates for care provided by NPs will increase by 30 per cent, and NPs will be eligible to participate in Medicare-subsidised multidisciplinary team case conferences.

“Supporting nurse practitioners to use their skills is good for patients, good for the health and aged care systems, and encourages more talented people to take up the profession,” said Ms Kearney.

“The plan recognises the true value of NPs.”

Annie Butler

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation welcomed the announcement. ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler – who was a member of the steering committee for the plan – said it would address chronic workforce shortages across the health and aged care sectors.

“The plan recognises the true value of NPs and how they can provide tangible solutions to the many challenges across the health and aged care sectors, which are impacting the delivery of timely, safe healthcare – particularly in rural and remote communities where there is limited access to a [general practitioner], or no GP at all.”

Expanding NPs’ scope of practice and introducing incentives such as the increased Medicare rebate “could finally allow NPs to provide people with direct access to safe, quality everyday care, without having to go through a GP,” said Ms Butler.

Ms Butler said the ANMF and its members would continue to work with the federal government and key stakeholders “so we can start to recruit and retain our NPs, allow them to play a crucial role in the development of the multidisciplinary models of care, which we believe is the future of Australia’s health and aged care systems.”

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Tags: anmf, Annie Butler, Ged Kearney, nurse practitioners, staff shortage,

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