Gag on Govt advisers threatens to stifle nurse practitioner debate
DEBATE on the role of nurse practitioners may be stymied, after the advisory committee charged with drawing up collaborative frameworks under which nurses will work was gagged by the Federal Government.
The 21 members were made to sign confidentiality agreements, banning them from discussing the matter openly.
The committee has been charged with guiding policy on nurse practitioners’ scope of care amid growing concerns that the controversial Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) Bill will allow nurse practitioners a high level of autonomy that would ultimately fragment care.
AMA representative Dr Steve Hambleton said the confidentiality agreement made it difficult to debate the issue widely.
“We take confidentiality to mean we can share this with our members, but on a confidential basis,” he said.
“The question is whether we need to be confidential, but that’s the way the Department [of Health and Ageing] likes to run it.”
The RACGP, which also has a representative on the committee, said it was common for the Government to request that representatives and nominees sign such agreements.
“The RACGP has often requested the department consider relaxing this requirement, as college representatives often need to consult with colleagues and staff on matters under discussion,” a spokesperson said.
While unable to say what the first meeting of the group entailed, Dr Hambleton said a range of views, some extreme, were expressed.
The AMA was further developing policy through internal working groups, he added.
A spokeswoman from the office of the Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, said confidentiality requirements were only applied on an as-needs basis that would be identified before a specific discussion took place.