National Rural Health Commissioner talks rural generalism, national pathway

Amanda Lyons

16/02/2018 3:39:58 PM

Professor Paul Worley talks to newsGP about the proposed national pathway for rural generalism, the collaboration between the RACGP and ACRRM, and the future of rural health in Australia.

National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley
National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley

National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley acknowledges that despite millions of dollars of investment in rural health workforce plans over recent decades, specific problems persist, such as workforce maldistribution and a lack of access to health services for people living in rural communities.
‘However, all is not lost, because over that time we’ve done a lot of research to show what’s necessary to create a sustainable rural health workforce,’ Professor Worley told newsGP.
As part of this solution, Professor Worley announced the development of a national pathway for a rural generalist medical specialty at last week’s rural and regional health forum in Canberra. The proposed pathway has its origins in the historic Collingrove Agreement, in which the RACGP and ACRRM have agreed to work together in its development.
‘Developing the national rural generalist pathway involves pulling all of that research together and looking at it in a cohesive, coordinated, collaborative and effective way,’ Professor Worley said. ‘It is about providing certainty for rural communities and health services, in terms of sustainability and quality, of the medical workforce, and then as we broaden it out, the broader health team.’
The Collingrove Agreement contains a clear definition of a ‘rural generalist’, provided by the RACGP and ACRRM, that paves the way for the creation of a national pathway. However, Professor Worley is keen to emphasise that the proposed pathway will not be a case of ‘one size fits all’.
‘A rural generalist skill-set is very responsive to the needs of particular regions and communities,’ he said. ‘A rural generalist will look different in Fitzroy Crossing compared to Shepparton. The skills required by those communities are different, and so the skills required in the training for rural generalists for those environments will be different.
‘However, what’s common is a rural generalist who links general practice, emergency care and other specialty care required in that community. So the principles are common, but the way it looks in each different town and for each practitioner may have significant diversity.’
The development of the national pathway can now progress to the next step: the establishment of a taskforce and a number of supporting working groups to decide the necessary details, such as standards, curriculum and assessment. While this process will be overseen by Professor Worley and led by the RACGP and ACRRM, it will also include input from other relevant stakeholders such as specialist colleges and rural health organisations.
Professor Worley strongly appreciates the RACGP and ACRRM joining together to advance the accessibility and quality of rural health.
‘I think the leaders of the two general practice colleges have shown great strength and vision to look forward to what Australia needs,’ he said.
‘Australian communities, rural communities, deserve it. It’s a human right, to have the hope that a sustainable, high-quality health service brings to a rural community. And it’s a human right to have the economic benefits that such a service provides to a rural community.
‘The two colleges have seen that, and have come together to provide leadership for the taskforce that will now make this a reality for current rural communities and generations to come.’

Commissioner Health National Rural rural-generalism

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