Thursday, October 4, 2012

Conference Report, PHCRIS

Last July Jenny Berrill and I were endorsed to attend the 3-day Primary Health Care Research conference of 2012 at the Canberra Convention Centre.  About 400 health professionals attended to INFORM, to INFLUENCE and to IMPLEMENT matters of primary health care.  In the opening remarks, the Conference Convener, Dr Christina Hagger, challenged us to maximise knowledge exchange, not only between colleagues who share similar views but also with colleagues who have different views.  In the three days, there were 126 concurrent sessions. Let me tell you about two of the several I attended.

One was titled, “Inter-Professional Collaboration Across Organisational Boundaries Relating to Diabetes”.  In simpler words, perhaps it could have read: “The Need for More Medical Cooperation Across Jurisdictions.”   Optimal diabetes care requires well-coordinated services from a range of medical and allied health professionals.  However, the complex mix of public and private sector primary health services presents challenges to this being achieved.

Two questions have arisen in the study:
•    In what way do health professionals who work in different jurisdictions collaborate?
•    What influences the keenness to collaborate?

The study is finding that a complex mix of organisational and professional factors adversely influence decisions about whether to collaborate with whom and to what level.  It seems that the level of collaboration rarely goes beyond a low level of coordination.  While this works satisfactorily for patients with routine care needs, it works less so for patients with complex needs. Much work seems to be needed before meaningful collaboration can be achieved.

Another session I attended was titled, “Supporting Advanced Nursing and Development and Sustainability in General Practice or SANDS in GP.  The project is funded by the Australian General Practice Network.

Five teams based in Australian primary care organisations are working together to develop a syllabus framework to support advanced nursing.  Each team is focused on one of five organisational levels as follows:

•    Individual nurse,
•    General Practice,
•    Primary Care organisation/Medicare Local
•    Leadership and Management
•    Governance

I was surprised to learn that this research is occurring simply because there is no clear career path for general practice nurses.  What is known is that international evidence shows that GP nurses can achieve good patient outcomes and good levels of satisfaction.  They have shown they are able to fill workforce shortages.  However, while our Federal Government supports the expansion of general practice, initiatives, such as the introduction of practice nurse MBS item numbers, are not based in strong evidence and may restrict the role.  Research is currently being carried out on definitions, training and how assessments are to be made on competencies.

To check on the current situation I emailed the Primary Care Nursing Research Fellow at ANU who was a delightful person to speak with. She has assured me that I will be kept informed of their progress in outlining the framework for this proposed nursing development.  

Roger Killeen
Consumer Representative