National Rural Health Commissioner

Page last updated: 11 March 2020

Interim Report: Improvement of Access, Quality and Distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia


Interim Report: Improvement of Access, Quality and Distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia coverThe National Rural Health Commissioner is undertaking a broad-scale consultation with the rural and allied health sectors at a national, jurisdictional and local level. The purpose of the consultation is to develop a set of recommendations and associated implementation considerations aimed at improving the quality of services, and equitable access and distribution of the regional, rural and remote allied health workforce.

This Interim Report is prepared for, the Hon Mark Coulton, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government (the Minister), and contributes to priority one of the 2020 Statement of Expectations received by the Commissioner, December 2019. It continues the work of the Commissioner carried out in 2019 at the Minister’s request to provide advice on distribution, quality and access of rural allied health services.

This Interim Report provides an insight into the Commissioner’s thinking to date. It describes four key strategic themes identified through the consultations and evidence which have been considered within the context of broader health and rural health policy. The strategic themes have been tested and refined through further consultations with the peak bodies named in the Statement of Expectations, other key stakeholders such as the Commissioner’s Consumer Expert Reference Group and National Rural Health Student Network, and with relevant areas within the Australian Government. These consultations, supported by the literature review, have provided a sound evidence base for the Commissioner’s work.

The Commissioner will continue working closely with key stakeholders and with the Department of Health to develop specific recommendations to improve access, quality and distribution of allied health services in regional, rural and remote Australia. The culmination of this work will form the final Rural Allied Health Report which will be presented to the Minister in June 2020.

Improvement of Access, Quality and Distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia (PDF 459 KB)
Improvement of Access, Quality and Distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia (Word 283 KB)

Role of the National Rural Health Commissioner


Professor Paul WorleyThe National Rural Health Commissioner (the Commissioner), Professor Paul Worley, is an independent, statutory office holder, appointed under Part VA of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (the Act), which was passed by both Houses of Parliament on 21 June 2017 and came into effect by Proclamation of the Governor General on 1 August 2017.

The Commissioner’s role was established as part of the Government’s broader agenda to reform rural health in Australia, and will provide policy advice to the Minister responsible for rural health.

The Commissioner works with regional, rural and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of government to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.



Priorities for the Commissioner include:
  • Assisting the Government to better target interventions in regional, rural and remote areas to support access to services and quality of services;
  • Consulting with stakeholders to give consideration to the needs of the entire rural health workforce;
  • If requested by the Minister, consulting with state and territory governments to identify, assess and develop policy options to address current or emerging regional, rural and remote health reform opportunities on a national level, and to ensure effective information exchange across jurisdictions;
  • Liaising with national peak professional organisations, consumer organisations, rural health stakeholders and other advisory committees in developing solutions that reflect community needs;
  • Providing national leadership for regional, rural and remote health, and work with the Government to progress nationally agreed goals in the sector, including flexible models of service delivery and workforce development, best practice approaches, and future national policy responses.
As part of the legislative requirements under the Act, the Commissioner will prepare and present to the Minister reports that include advice and recommendations. The Commissioner will also prepare and give to the Minister annual reports about his functions during the previous calendar year.

Current Work

Following the work in 2019, and in recognition of the importance of allied health services in rural Australia, the Commissioner has been asked to further refine his allied health reform advice to Government. The Commissioner’s advice will outline priorities for implementation, potential barriers and other practical implementation considerations. The Commissioner’s focus for 2020 is contained in the current Statement of Expectations.

Statement of Expectations - 2020 (PDF 618 KB)
Statement of Expectations - 2020 (Word 104 KB)

The Commissioner travels across Australia to work with students, allied health peak bodies, associations and professional bodies, rural allied health service providers, clinicians, universities and schools, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative bodies and health services, consumers and consumer groups, and local, state, territory and Australian Government representatives to develop a comprehensive understanding of the current opportunities and challenges for the allied health sector.

The final Advice for improving the quality, access and distribution of allied health services is due to the Hon Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government, no later than 30 June 2020.

The Commissioner is also continuing to champion the National Rural Generalist Pathway as well as work with the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners towards recognition of Rural Generalist Medicine as a distinct field of practice.

Legislation

The National Rural Health Commissioner is appointed under Part VA of the Health Insurance Act 1973.

What the Commissioner does not do

The Commissioner does not get involved in individual cases or advocate for individual people or groups. Instead the Commissioner will champion rural health, advocate for system wide improvement in achieving rural health outcomes for regional, rural and remote communities of Australia.

The office of the National Rural Health Commissioner is not a fund holding body. The Commissioner does not provide services, grants or funding for unsolicited projects or campaigns.





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