State of the Art – Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association 2017 National Conference

The Federal Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, MP spoke at the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association 2017 National Conference on 5 May 2017

Page last updated: 10 May 2017

PDF printable version State of the Art – Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association 2017 National Conference (PDF 277 KB)

5 May 2017

Check against delivery

Good morning! It’s a pleasure to be here in Hobart today to officially open your 2017 National Conference.

My thanks to Karen [Booth, APNA President] for your opening address and your kind introduction.

Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today – the Muwinina (pron. Mou-wee-nee-nar) people – and I extend my respect to their Elders, past, present and future.

I acknowledge other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here today.

I’d also like to acknowledge:

    • David Malone, your CEO;
    • Dr Rosemary Bryant, APNA Patron and former Commonwealth Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer;
    • Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett from Orange Sky Laundry;
    • Dr Bastian Seidel, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners; and
    • Phil Edmondson, CEO of Primary Health Tasmania.
I want to start by saying that this Government deeply values the contribution of nurses in our communities, and we also value your insights on ways we can improve health service delivery.

The nursing and midwifery workforce is the single largest health profession in Australia, almost ten times the size of the GP workforce (34,600 GPs compared to 315,100 nurses), and work across a range of settings – from general practices, to schools, prisons, community health and in aged care.

You play a critical role in maintaining safe, high quality health care within our primary health care system.

This gives you a unique perspective in understanding what’s working, and where we can improve.
The theme of this year’s conference – State of the Art – is timely in this regard.

Our society is changing. Our health system is changing. Nursing is changing.

I believe nurses will continue to play an increasingly important role in the evolution and delivery of primary health care in this country, and I welcome your ongoing input into our health journey.

Long Term National Health Plan

Strengthening primary health care through modernisation and innovation is one of the central pillars of this Government’s long term national health plan.

It is essential that our health system has the flexibility to meet our current and future demands, while at the same time remaining financially sustainable.

This means moving away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to health policy, and towards a system which is wrapped around the individual health needs of the consumer.

Primary Health Networks

The creation of the Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in July 2015 was one of the first steps in this process – and an important one.

Since that time, the 31 PHNs around the country have been doing extensive planning and consultation to really understand the health needs of the people who live there – not only now, but moving into the future.

They are working directly with nurses, as well as GPs, allied health workers including psychologists and physiotherapists, and local specialists and hospitals.

This approach will bring new opportunities for nurses to strengthen their role in the delivery of primary health care services at this local level.

Health Care Homes is a good example of where innovation and new models of care will lead to better patient outcomes and an enhanced role for nurses working in primary health settings.

Ten selected PHNs are right now preparing for stage one of Health Care Homes – this includes Primary Health Tasmania, represented here today by their CEO Phil Edmondson.

Health Care Homes

200 medical practices across these 10 PHNs will identify and enrol patients with chronic and complex conditions that can benefit from team based care into the Health Care Home Program.

Nurses will play an essential role, working together with GPs and other health professionals to design a coordinated care plan for each enrolled patient – taking into account local health, social and psychological support services.

It’s hoped that this approach will delay or prevent patients’ chronic conditions from worsening, and help them to avoid hospitalisation.

Workforce Participation Initiatives

The Australian Government is also investing in initiatives to expand the role of nurses through increased workforce participation and capacity.

Last year the Government established the National Nursing and Midwifery Education Advisory Network to provide advice on planning, coordination of education, employment and immigration for nurses and midwives.

In particular, this advisory network will help to inform policy and innovation to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of the nursing and midwifery workforce. Ms Karen Booth, President of APNA is a member of this Network, representing one of five professional nursing and midwifery associations.

We are working closely with the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association to deliver other activities to support nurses in their primary health care settings. You will hear more about these activities during this conference.

The PHNs are also crucial in the delivery of mental health nursing services, which will form part of the regional-level planning for mental health and suicide prevention planning.

Mental health nurses are part of a more holistic approach to mental health care and prevention services, as they work closely with clinical care providers to support people experiencing mental ill health, their families and the community.

These nurses perform a wide range of roles – from promoting good mental health, prevention support, to clinical and therapeutic intervention.

The Australian Government has also committed to support the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses to develop new workforce models that promote a sustainable and flexible mental health nursing workforce.

More broadly, we support scholarship programs aimed at increasing health workforce participation, particularly in rural and remote communities.

The Nursing and Allied Health Scholarship will become part of a broader and more streamlined Health Workforce Scholarship Program later this year, and will provide the scholarships and bursaries to students who are committed to working in the bush.

People – no matter where in Australia they may live – should expect the same standard of health care, and this initiative will help ensure we have the right health professionals in the right areas.

We have also invested $6.5 million over three years in the Nursing in Primary Health Care initiative to boost the number of nurses working in front-line health services, including in rural communities.

This initiative is building the capacity of nurses in primary health care settings, and encourages reform and innovation to better address the health needs of those in our communities.

The Practice Nurse Incentive Program is also supporting the nurses working in general practice to work to their full scope of practice.

Its incentive payments of up to $125,000 each year help to offset the costs of employing a practice nurse, allied health professional or Aboriginal Health Worker or Practitioner, and can take some of the pressure off GPs in busy practices.

The Government’s ongoing support for other programs – such as the McGrath Breast Cancer Nurses and Prostate Cancer Foundation’s Prostate Cancer Nurses – is also helping to expand the role of nurses and delivering great outcomes and support for patients and their families following a cancer diagnosis.

Aged Care

Aged care and palliative care are other areas where nurses are increasingly making an even greater contribution to improve patient care.

The Government is working with the aged care sector to ensure that we have a capable and responsible aged care workforce into the future.

And nurses and other allied health professionals can play a stronger role here.

Many of our elderly people have complex health needs and need support to manage their conditions.

But the vast majority of them want to stay living in their home for as long as possible.

Early intervention, monitoring of medication and regular reviews can reduce the need for expensive and disruptive hospital admission.

Supporting people’s health and independence is the key to meeting our expanding need for quality and affordable health and aged care.

And quality health care and support remains just as important when we near the end of our lives.

Nurses make up the majority of the registrations for Australian Government-funded palliative care projects that enhance the capacity of health professionals to deliver quality care.


Having a dynamic and flexible health workforce is key to an effective and efficient health system moving forward.
In an environment of evolving models of care and scarce health dollars, there is scope for nurses to play a greater role in supporting the primary health care needs of our communities.

The nursing profession has already contributed much, and is now poised to take a leading role in the evolution of our health system, against a background of increased demand for services.

Your conference will explore ideas on cutting-edge innovation in service delivery, better models of care, quality and safety and leadership in nursing.

I encourage you to embrace these ideas and see how they may be applied to your work, and the nursing profession more broadly.
Thank you.

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