South Australian patients will be able to access new healthcare options to avoid visits to emergency departments, under a new primary care pilot project aimed at further reducing pressure on our hospitals.
As part of $100 million announced in the 2022–23 October Budget, the Albanese Government is providing $10.08 million in funding to the South Australian Government to pilot an innovative model of primary care.
The funding will provide a nurse practitioner program and new Healthdirect services, making it easier for people to access more appropriate care options to get the care they need when and where they need it.
SA Health will allocate approximately $2.6 million of the funding to support more nurse practitioners to work in a GP clinic or primary care setting as part of a multidisciplinary team.
A nurse practitioner is an experienced registered nurse who has completed an additional Master’s degree, and plays an important role in the delivery of health care in South Australia.
Under the pilot, nurse practitioners will work collaboratively with other health practitioners to treat a wide range of health conditions, supporting GP practices and other primary care providers to improve their capacity and capability.
The nurse practitioner service will be free of charge for people in the community and will focus on areas where there is social disadvantage and poor access to GPs and primary care.
The locations of nurse practitioners will be subject to consultation with key stakeholders, with a preference for where practices can increase after hours coverage.
The $7.5 million Healthdirect investment will see the establishment of two new services to divert patients with non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries away from emergency departments to more appropriate care in the community.
A new, South Australia-specific navigation tool will expand on existing Healthdirect services to rapidly connect people with new and existing urgent care services and direct them through the health system more easily.
Additionally, the Primary Care Pilot funding will deliver a GP Medical Escalation Service to connect people with a virtual GP appointment.
This will connect patients to a GP to provide a telehealth assessment with e-scripts if required in circumstances when no other local primary care option is available within an appropriate timeframe.
It is estimated that up to 20,000 South Australians a year could utilise this new service who would otherwise be unable to see a GP.
It is expected that the service will start in the coming months. South Australians can connect to Healthdirect 24-hours-a-day by calling 1800 022 222.
Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:
“The Albanese Government wants to utilise the full potential of nurse practitioners to work to their full scope of practice.
“This pilot will make it easier for South Australians to receive health care where and when they need it.
“The Healthdirect services are based off a successful pilot in New South Wales, which is seeing real results as 65 per cent of patients said they found the care they needed without having to visit a hospital emergency department.
“We expect that the Healthdirect services will assist around 20,000 South Australians a year, meaning that for many of them a hospital visit is not needed."
Quotes attributable to Minister Picton:
“Our emergency departments continue to be under increased pressure, with many patients accessing this service because they simply can’t get the services they need from a primary care provider.
“Access to more services, connecting people to appropriate care where and when they need it, will alleviate some of that pressure from emergency departments.
“This additional investment from the Commonwealth is welcomed by South Australia, at time when primary care so desperately needs the extra support.
“Healthdirect already plays an important role in providing health advice and information to South Australians, and this Commonwealth funding will see that role expand, and in turn reduce the demand on our hospitals.”