About the Practice Stream
The Workforce Incentive Program (WIP) Practice Stream encourages multidisciplinary and team-based models of care by providing financial incentives to general practices to engage a range of health professionals, including:
- allied health professionals
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and health practitioners.
The Practice Stream provides primary care practices with more flexibility to respond to local community needs and gaps in services. This includes helping practices to meet the increasingly complex health needs of older people and people living with chronic and complex conditions. It is designed to complement and strengthen existing services, not replace or duplicate them.
Practice Stream payments assist general practices with the cost of engaging eligible health professionals. They are not intended to cover the whole cost of engaging eligible health professionals.
How the Practice Stream works
Services Australia administers the Practice Stream for us (see Services Australia’s program page).
When a practice participates in the Practice Stream, it must report to Services Australia on the health professionals it is engaging and their average weekly hours.
Every quarter, Services Australia sends a statement to the practice to be confirmed or corrected. This includes details of hours worked during that quarter by eligible health professionals employed by the practice. Once Services Australia receives the returned completed statement, it pays the incentive directly to the practice.
See Practice Stream obligations for details.
Practices that are eligible for the Practice Stream are:
- general practices
- Aboriginal Medical Services
- Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
There are specific eligibility requirements for this payment. These include:
- general practice accreditation requirements
- employment of at least one full-time or part-time general practitioner
- engagement of at least one eligible health professional
- eligibility for the Practice Incentives Program (PIP) – if a PIP consenting practice
- a specified amount of public liability insurance, as set out in the guidelines.
Read the full eligibility requirements in the WIP guidelines before applying.
Eligible practices in all locations can participate. Rural loadings are applied to practices in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia.
Eligible health professionals
Eligible health professionals under the Practice Stream include:
- nurse practitioners
- registered nurses
- enrolled nurses
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners
- specified allied health professionals, including:
- diabetes educators
- exercise physiologists
- occupational therapists
- pharmacists (non-dispensing role)
- social workers
- speech pathologists.
All health professionals must hold the minimum qualifications set out in the WIP guidelines, and maintain the required level of professional indemnity insurance.
Engaging or employing a health professional
Under the Practice Stream, practices have the flexibility to decide what type of health professional(s) they engage. The practice and the health professional decide the form of engagement. It could be direct, contracted or casual employment. Practices may choose to contract existing allied health services already operating within the community.
For example, based on community need, a practice could:
- employ a nurse to work specified hours per week at the practice
- engage a local allied health professional in private practice to provide services one day per week to practice patients who cannot afford private services
- engage a nurse or allied health professional to provide group-based education sessions, such as education on diabetes management.
Some services are not eligible for this payment, including:
- after-hours services
- any hours worked by health professionals where the practice already receives support to pay them. This includes:
- time billed to Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) services (unless an exemption applies).
- support received from other Australian Government or state/territory funding or private funding.
The maximum incentive payment under the Practice Stream is $125,000 per year. The amount paid to each practice depends on the:
- size of the practice, measured in Standardised Whole Patient Equivalent (SWPE)
- hours worked by eligible health professionals at the practice
- location of the practice.
To receive the maximum annual incentive payment, a practice must have a SWPE value of 5,000 or above and engage eligible health professionals for a combined minimum of 63 hours and 20 minutes per week.
Different incentive amounts apply to different health professionals.
Loadings apply for some practices. For details, see Practice Stream incentive payments.