Message from Daniel Roitman, Deputy Chief Allied Health Officer
2023 has been a busy year, with a focus on implementing priorities the Australian Government announced in the 2023-24 Federal Budget in May. I would strongly encourage you to read through the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce’s recommendations released earlier this year. The recommendations highlight that our funding models, infrastructure and systems need strengthening to better enable high quality, integrated and person-centred care for all Australians. The Budget outlines the Government’s response to these recommendations by taking the first steps to better use the skills of the entire care workforce, including allied health.
We’ve also continued engaging with the allied health sector. The first in-person meeting of the Allied Health Industry Reference Group (AHIRG) was held in early June, with subsequent meetings in July and one in early September which included several allied health professional associations.
In August, the Chief Allied Health Officer (CAHO), Dr Anne-marie Boxall, attended the National Allied Health Conference in Perth. This was an excellent opportunity to network and discuss the government’s work on allied health. The plenary panel, comprising Dr Boxall and her Aotearoa New Zealand and Singapore counterparts Dr Martin Chadwick and Adjunct Professor Susan Niam, were asked some challenging questions around the current and future directions of the allied health sector. It was encouraging to note that many of the questions posed to the panel revolved around the same key priorities of workforce and data collection that the CAHO office is working to address.
On a personal note, earlier this year I was appointed as the Deputy Chief Allied Health Officer to better support Dr Boxall and the team to engage with the allied health sector. You can find out more about what my role means for the CAHO office below.
As always, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com if you would like to get in touch about this newsletter, suggestions for future topics, or any other allied health matters.
Budget 2023 updates related to allied health
Budget 2023 - Strengthening Medicare
The Australian Government announced an historic $6.1 billion of investments to lay the foundations for a stronger Medicare. It will deliver critical funding to meet the urgent healthcare needs of today, while starting reforms to build a stronger Medicare for future generations and responding to the recommendations of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce.
The Chief Allied Health Office is progressing two of these initiatives:
- $79.4 million over four years to enable all 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to commission multidisciplinary care, including from allied health professionals. Funding will also enable PHNs to develop an allied health Practice Support Toolkit and take initial steps to extend their existing role in general practice support to allied health, nursing and midwifery practices.
- $6.1 million over two years to support allied health professionals to develop connections to My Health Record. This will be alongside a comprehensive marketing and education campaign to promote My Health Record use amongst allied health professionals. This will ensure that all members of a patient’s primary care team have access to their key health information, including diagnostic investigation results, to support clinical decision making at the point of care.
Scope of Practice Review
A scope of practice review was announced in the 2023-24 Budget. The review will be undertaken to examine current models of care against community needs and recommend appropriate changes to policy including legislation, to enable health professionals, including allied health, to work to their full scope of practice. The review aims to identify barriers to full scope of practice, service gaps and the professionals that are skilled and experienced to fill those gaps, opportunities for further upskilling to enable professionals to expand their scope of practice to meet the needs of the community, and opportunities for facilitation of long-term review and planning. The review will be underpinned by extensive stakeholder engagement and collaboration, in consultation with states and territories.
This intensive independent review entitled Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce will be led by Professor Mark Cormack, a highly accomplished health system and public policy executive and the former chief executive of Health Workforce Australia. The range of health professions that will be considered over the course of the review are general practitioners, nurses, including nurse practitioners, registered nurses and enrolled nurses, pharmacists, midwives, allied health practitioners, First Nations health practitioners and workers, and paramedics.
Face-to-face consultations will occur over three phases during 2024, with the first phase expected to commence in February 2024. Professor Cormack will be very interested in hearing the views of a broad range of stakeholders, including most importantly the consumers of primary care, the states and territories, and the in-scope health professionals outlined above. The final report of the review will be provided to the Australian Government in the second half of 2024.
Online submissions are being sought via the Department’s Consultation Hub. Contact the review team at firstname.lastname@example.org to add your details to a mailing list and receive important news and updates about the review.
Strengthening Nutrition in Aged Care
The role of allied health is highly valued by the Australian Government, which is why dietitian and speech pathologist expertise has been carefully considered as part of the new Strengthening Nutrition in Aged Care 2023-24 Budget measure. This measure provides $12.9 million to focus on increasing capability and accountability of residential aged care and home care providers to deliver high quality food, nutrition and dining experiences.
This includes the launch of the dedicated Food, Nutrition and Dining Advisory Support Unit (FND Unit) into the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (Commission), to help improve food and nutrition regulatory expertise across the aged care sector. This measure is:
- embedding dietetic and speech pathologist expertise into the FND Unit which will assist in developing specific food audit methodology and training,
- providing expert nutrition advice to anyone accessing the new Food, Nutrition and Dining hotline, which was established within the Commission as part of the measure on 28 July 2023,
- allowing for 720 annual spot checks with a focus on food and nutrition, and
- providing 500 annual residential menu and mealtime assessments for services that have been referred through the FND Unit.
This funding will also deliver new dietary guidelines and resources for older Australians over 65 years to support good nutritional intake. Find out more about the Budget measure and how else we are improving food in aged care on the Department’s website.
New quality indicators for aged care
As part of the 2023-24 Budget, the Government announced that new staffing measures, including for allied health, will be introduced to the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program (QI Program). The new indicators recognise the importance of allied health staff in ensuring positive ageing outcomes for older people in aged care. The Department will shortly be undertaking consultation on the development of these new staffing measures.
The QI Program serves as a vital mechanism to measure, monitor and improve quality in residential aged care requiring providers to report quarterly on critical areas impacting the health and wellbeing of older people. The new staffing measures will build on the existing QI program, which currently includes a workforce quality indicator reporting staff turnover for service managers, nurse practitioners or registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers or assistants in nursing. To stay up to date with the development of the new quality indicators subscribe to the Your Aged Care Update newsletter.
Support for allied health professionals, students, and researchers
Access for All – Disability awareness for mainstream health providers
Funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), CheckUP Australia, in partnership with people with disability and health providers, has developed ‘Access for All’, a disability awareness course designed to support healthcare providers, organisations, and practices to improve accessibility and inclusivity for people with disability. The objective of Access for All is to improve disability awareness and create awareness of the barriers people with disability experience when accessing mainstream health care.
If you would like to sign up to the ‘Access for All’ course, please follow this link: Access for All (talentlms.com). More information on ‘Access for All’ can be found at Access for All Resources - CheckUP.
The Tasmanian Government is committed to supporting allied health in the state, to optimise the care we provide to our communities. In addition to the $6 million commitment for the Allied Health Education and Training Program in the 2022-23 State Budget, the Tasmanian Government committed $1.125 million in the 2023-24 State Budget for the Allied Health Scholarship Program. This is a strategic recruitment and retention incentive to help allied health students coming home, moving to, or staying in, Tasmania to commence their career after graduating.
The scholarships are valued at $25,000, with an initial payment of $15,000 and a second payment of $10,000 upon completion of three years’ service with the Tasmanian Department of Health. More information can be found at the Tasmanian Government Department of Health website or by contacting email@example.com.
The Australian Government is providing $6.8 million over three years for training to support medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health students to identify distress amongst their peers. This funding allocation is to provide training to enable Australia’s future health workforce to help provide mental health support to their peers and patients, addressing a critical issue in Australia’s health sector of declining mental health and subsequent impact on services to Australians. It is anticipated that over the three-year funding period (2023 – 2025 financial years) the training will be accessed by over 60,000 students.
The Department will enter into contracts to continue mental health first aid training for medical students and expand to allied health and nursing students across their network of 22 Universities. It is anticipated that from early 2024, allied health, midwifery and nursing students will be able to access mental health first aid training courses.
Following the January 2023 update to the Home Care Package Provider Manual, the Department has compiled answers to Frequently Asked Questions including the role of allied health in assessing, recommending and prescribing services and supports in the program.
The Provider Manual update clarified inclusions and exclusions and reflects recent aged care reforms, including:
- Capping on care and package management charges
- Pricing guidance
- Unspent funds
- Interface with other programs such as residential care and palliative care
- Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS).
The policy on what care recipients can and cannot spend package funds on has not changed. It is the responsibility of providers to help care recipients understand their Home Care Package (HCP), including the scope of the program bound by the legislation.
The Department hosted a webinar for HCP providers on 4 April to explain what is included and excluded under the HCP Program. The webinar recording and slides are available on the Department’s website.
Pilot of the strengthened Quality Standards
A pilot of the strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards (Quality Standards) is currently underway. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is delivering the pilot, following the urgent review of the Quality Standards which responded to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Allied health professionals contributed to the review through co-design of a set of draft strengthened Quality Standards and by engaging in public consultation held late 2022.
During public consultation we heard from allied health professionals and representative organisations on how to further enhance the Quality Standards to support quality care and services. In response, the strengthened Quality Standards have clear expectations around the role of multidisciplinary teams, which include allied health professionals, in the provision of coordinated and comprehensive clinical and personal care. The expectations outline the key role of allied health professionals in assessment and planning and in supporting reablement and maintenance of functional capacities.
The strengthened Quality Standards are expected to be implemented as part of the new Aged Care Act, subject to Government decisions, from July 2024. For further information please see the Department’s website.
Rural and Remote Health
The Innovative Models of Care (IMOC) program supports organisations to trial locally co- designed innovative multidisciplinary models of primary care in rural and remote communities (Modified Monash (MM) 3-7) and to evaluate whether they improve rural practice and lead to better health outcomes.
In the October 2022 Budget, the Government committed funding for additional grant opportunities under the IMOC program. Round 4 closed for applications on 7 August 2023 with assessment of applications currently in progress. Round 4 grant outcomes will be announced in late 2023. Round 5 will open in late-2023. Further information on the IMOC program and funding opportunities is available on the Department’s website.
The Government is undertaking a review of the design, operations and sustainability of the NDIS (the Review). The Review will also examine ways to build a more responsive, supportive and sustainable market and workforce. An Independent Review Panel will provide a final report to Disability Reform Ministers by October 2023, making findings and recommendations for reforms and a plan for implementation of its recommendations.
The Review website contains further information about the Review, including the Review Terms of Reference, as well as information about how to get involved – including an email subscription service.
On 30 September 2022, National Cabinet announced a review of overseas health practitioner regulatory settings. Stakeholders reported the current end-to-end process is too complex, costly, and slow and has not kept up with international best practice adopted by our peers (Canada, UK and New Zealand). Ms Robyn Kruk AO was appointed to lead this review, referred to as the Kruk Review.
In July 2023, Health Ministers endorsed the Kruk Review Interim Report recommendations. Identifying key reforms for action now to ease health profession skills shortages by removing unnecessary barriers and reducing the cost, time and complexity of regulatory processes for overseas trained health professionals.
The Department has already begun work on these key reforms. This includes streamlining administrative processes for migration, registration and onboarding; identifying opportunities for expanded fast track registration pathways; aligning English language standards with the United Kingdom and New Zealand; discussions with jurisdictions to improve health workforce and service delivery data; and working across government agencies on migration reform. The Kruk Review Final Report will be released toward the end of 2023. The Interim Report and further information is available on the Department’s website.
Deputy Chief Allied Health Officer, Mr Daniel Roitman
The CAHO office established the role of Deputy Chief Allied Health Officer in April this year to further improve engagement with the allied health sector. Daniel is a practicing pharmacist and is currently completing a PhD in global health. He has worked for Commonwealth and state governments and most recently held an executive role in the Victorian government COVID-19 Policy and Strategy Branch. Daniel is passionate about finding the balance between patient-level interactions and system reform.
We are thrilled to welcome Daniel into this new role. We look forward to working alongside him to further expand the profile of allied health across the country and increase engagement between the Australian Government and the allied health sector.
Short-term secondment for the Chief Allied Health Officer, Dr Anne-marie Boxall
Dr Boxall has been seconded to another area of the Department and is expected to return later this year.