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The Federal Budget will strengthen Australia’s primary health care (PHC) system by addressing growing nursing shortages, seeing more nurses hired where they are needed, and better utilising the largest workforce in PHC of nearly 100,000 nurses to their full potential to reduce the pressure on the health system.
The Albanese Government has signaled a clear intent that the status quo in primary health care is no longer an option. The budget is broad and considered and is a welcome intervention in a system that is struggling to meet the health needs of a modern Australia.
APNA President Karen Booth welcomed the Budget, saying that it laid the groundwork for lasting and sustainable structural change for nurses working in the primary health care system. However, she emphasised that there was still much to do in this area.
“This Budget takes some strategic first steps to strengthen our health system and make it fit for purpose,” Ms Booth said. “It addresses the growing nursing shortages in primary health care, will see more nurses hired where they are needed, and will see more nurses utilised to their full potential.”
“It also enables growth in the PHC nursing workforce through student placements, education scholarships and increased wages in aged care. In addition, it opens the door to wage increases for nurses working in general practice,” Ms Booth said.
The Federal Budget could significantly boost job prospects and career progression in primary healthcare, as well as strengthen the current PHC nursing workforce by funding:
An 18-month national Scope of Practice review
6,000 additional clinical placements in primary healthcare nursing ($4.2 million over four years)
1,850 graduate scholarships to train more Nurse Practitioners ($50.2 million over four years)
$1 million towards incentives to get 500 nurses back into the workforce
Additionally, as part of MyMedicare, $19.7 million will be provided over four years to ensure patients receive consistent care from a team of healthcare providers, which includes PHC nurses.
“On a policy level the elimination of Collaborative Arrangements for nurse practitioners and participating midwives, and scope of practice review, have the potential to be game changers for health care,” Ms Booth said.
“PHC nurses account for around one in seven of the 640,000 registered health professionals in Australia. Increasing their scope of practice and embracing a multidisciplinary model of care will unleash the potential of PHC nurses to create a healthier Australia.”
Ms Booth added that much work remains to be done. "The increase to WIP incentive payments is welcome, however there must be accountability for how the funding is used, to ensure the increase leads to improved wages for practice nurses,” Ms Booth said.
This budget announcement lays the groundwork for structural change, but there is more work to be done. APNA looks forward to working with Health Minister Butler to implement these Medicare reforms as efficiently and quickly as possible.