Govt warns nurse practitioners off solo role
HEALTH Minister Nicola Roxon has issued a public warning to nurse practitioners who set up independently of team care arrangements, and has reassured GPs that new models of service will not fragment patient care.
Addressing the RACGP Conference for General Practice in Perth last week, Ms Roxon told delegates the Government understood GP concerns and was keenly aware of the risks if the correct collaborative frameworks were not in place.
“We are alive to this risk and do not intend to implement these changes in a manner that allows [fragmentation of patient care],” she said.
“Business strategies and plans based on this assumption are frankly taking a great risk – and getting way ahead of where the Government’s reform thinking is going.”
The speech follows widespread GP angst over recent moves by WA-based group Revive to roll out up to 150 franchised nurse practitioner clinics located in pharmacies.
However, Revive managing director Louise Stewart welcomed the minister’s comments, saying her model did focus on collaborative team-based care.
“The Revive Clinics were set up well before any government announcements to provide nurse practitioner access to the MBS and PBS, and certainly we have never claimed to have government support,” she said.
“Access to MBS and PBS will simply make these services available to all.”
Bundaberg GP Dr Patrick Byrnes also welcomed Ms Roxon’s comments. Dr Byrnes is the RACGP representative on the Nurse Practitioner Advisory Group, which has been tasked with establishing the collaborative frameworks under which nurse practitioners will work.
“It is an obvious reference to the Revive model, which is a model that concerns most GPs,” he said.
“It suggests the Government is not in favour of it.”
AMA vice-president Dr Steve Hambleton – also a member of the advisory group – was similarly reassured by the comments, noting Ms Roxon adopted a very different tone to that in last year’s Light on the Hill speech.
However, he still held reservations about nurse practitioner access to the MBS and PBS.
“This policy has gone a long way, and it entertains the idea of independent nurse practitioners. There is no detail on the collaborative frameworks and that is a great concern – which is why we are engaged in the process to ensure that meaningful collaboration is locked down,” he said.