Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce – Scope of Practice Review

The independent Scope of Practice Review examines the barriers and incentives health practitioners face working to their full scope of practice in primary care.

About the review

The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce Report explored critical areas for government action to redesign primary care as the core of an effective, modern health system.

The report recommended governments work together to review the barriers and incentives for primary health care professionals working to their full scope of practice.

National Cabinet endorsed the taskforce recommendations on 28 April 2023. The Australian Government provided funding for the now under way scope of practice review through the 2023-24 Budget.

Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce is an independent review, led by Professor Mark Cormack. It is looking at the available evidence about health professionals’ ability to deliver on their full scope of practice in primary care.

The review is identifying opportunities to remove the barriers stopping health professionals working to their full scope of practice. It is also drawing on examples of multi-disciplinary teams where members are working to their full scope of practice to deliver best practice primary care.

 

What the review covers

The image shows what is in scope and out of scope for the Scope of Practice Review. 

In scope: Primary care workforce, covering general practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners and workers, allied health professionals (both regulated and self-regulated), paramedics and the assistance workforce. 

Focus areas in scope include legislation and regulation, technology, education and training, funding mechanisms, employer practices and work context, leadership and culture, and opportunities and lessons learned. 

This work will result in:

  • understanding of benefits, risks, barriers and enablers
  • recommendations on priority reforms to deliver change
  • advice on ongoing approach to manage scope of practice change. 

Out of scope: personal factors influencing scope of practice, GP incentive programs, broad review of Medicare Benefits Schedule items, development of clinical guidelines, recommendations on specific changes to scopes of practice. 

The review team is undertaking a broad consultation process to consider and hear all perspectives and voices. The review is consulting with:

  • governments
  • peak bodies
  • health professions
  • regulators
  • education and training providers
  • employers
  • funders
  • insurers
  • professional bodies
  • unions
  • consumers.

For more details see the review’s terms of reference.

Why it is important

The review is exploring the system changes and practical improvements needed to support greater productivity and improved, safe and affordable care for patients.  

With the right technology, innovation and regulation in place, the health care system can gain the full benefit of professional skills and expertise. 

Goals

The review will start by looking at evidence on health professionals working to, or being prevented from exercising, their full scope of practice in primary care. This includes the:

  • benefits
  • outcomes
  • associated risks.

The review will outline steps and recommendations that aim to deliver:

  • better health care and outcomes for patients
  • a more productive health system  
  • better access to health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, rural and remote Australians, and other marginalised groups 
  • greater job satisfaction for health professionals, leading to improved recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce.

Independent reviewer

Professor Mark Cormack is leading the Independent Scope of Practice Review.

Professor Cormack works at the Australian National University (ANU) College of Health and Medicine, and established the ANU’s National Centre for Health Workforce Studies.

His academic role follows a long career of senior roles in Commonwealth, state and ACT government. Including CEO of Health Workforce Australia, CEO of ACT Health and Deputy Secretary at three Australian Government Departments.

Updates

Read Professor Cormack’s updates about the review and how it is progressing. To receive these updates via email, contact the review team to add your details to the review mailing list.

    Scope of Practice Review updates

    This collection contains updates from Professor Mark Cormack, who is leading the Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce – Scope of Practice Review.

    Research partner

    The University of Queensland (UQ) (partnering with KPMG) is supporting the review. The research team is undertaking an extensive literature review on the topic. It is analysing stakeholder submissions and consultation discussions and documenting the emerging themes and issues. UQ will also support the lead reviewer in drafting the issues papers for the review.

    Issues papers

    The review has produced two issues papers. Issues paper 1 explored the available evidence about the benefits, risks, barriers and enablers to health practitioners working to their full scope of practice. Issues paper 2 moves from identifying and clarifying problems and issues to proposing policy reform options for further consideration and development through consultation. 

    The Scope of Practice Review has called for submissions in response to Issues Paper 2. Have your say about the  proposed reform options. Submissions are open until 26 May 2024. 

    Issues papers

    This collection contains Issues papers from the Unleashing the Potential of our Health Workforce – Scope of Practice Review.

    Expert Advisory Committee

    An Expert Advisory Committee (EAC) will provide input to the review. The 23-member committee includes representation from many areas of the health workforce, as well as consumers and people involved in the education and training of the workforce. Each member is highly qualified, and brings a wealth of experience, knowledge, skills and interest in the delivery of innovative, multidisciplinary and affordable primary care for patients.

    The EAC will provide subject matter expertise, insights and advice throughout the review process, including helping to guide our stakeholder engagement processes. A specific set of terms of reference for the EAC provides more detail of its role, function and responsibilities.

    The EAC met for the first time on 14 November 2023. It will meet a further 3 times through to delivery of the final report in at the end of 2024. Read a summary of each meeting held to date.

    How to take part

    Gaining the views of as many people as possible, representing the broadest span of professions and public perspectives, is essential to the success of this review. This will ensure the review:

    • is evidence based
    • has a well-informed understanding of issues
    • reflects perspectives from a broad range of positions within the health system.

    Workforce, regulators, insurers, and consumers – the review wants to hear from you.

    Flowchart

    The image shows the phases of the review. The Expert Advisory Committee has input in all stages. The text reads as follows.

    Ministerial announcement of terms of reference and review consultation: September 2023.

    Phase 1: September to November 2023

    • Project establishment
    • Public submissions – closed 16 October
    • Initial stakeholder consultation.

    Phase 2: December 2023 to March 2024

    • Issues Paper 1: key themes, evidence base and legislative context
    • Stakeholder forums and consultation.

    Phase 3: April to July 2024

    • Issues Paper 2: barriers and enablers
    • Stakeholder forums and consultation.

    Phase 4: July to September 2024

    • Draft final report and implementation plan
    • Stakeholder forums and consultation.

    Final report and implementation plan by October 2024.

    There are many opportunities and several different ways for stakeholders to give input during the review.

    The lead reviewer is conducting an intensive program of meetings and briefings throughout each stage of the review. Additionally, each consultation phase includes a public submission process.

    The release of Issues Paper 1 led to more than 250 responses to our call for submissions. This input built on the more than 700 submissions from Phase 1.

    Our national consultation efforts through the National Roadshow in February 2024 drew approximately 500 participants across 21 sessions in every state and territory. 

    Issues Paper 2 is now out for public consultation with a call for submissions open until 26 May 2024. The reform options will also form the basis of a new round of stakeholder consultations planned for June, including virtual and in-person workshops.

    The review’s terms of reference has further detail about how you can share your perspective and views throughout the review. For more information about how you can take part, email the review team

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