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Cygnet Family Practice - Urgent and After-Hours Service

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 7 September 2023

Tags: Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I want to talk about the very exciting launch of the Urgent and After-Hours Service a few weeks ago.

The Cygnet Family Practice is the first practice in Australia to bring in this urgent after-hours service. It is a national first in emergency care models. It is the first general practice in Australia to have an urgent and after-hours service that is run solely by nurse practitioners.

It is run in conjunction with, and with the close support of, Ambulance Tasmania and ambulance paramedic practitioners. It allows GPs and pharmacies to deliver urgent care outside of 9-5 GP hours, and is also really important in reducing the impact on emergency departments. It is a solution to the long waiting times that are happening everywhere to see GPs, and it is also for people who have mobility or travel issues, because this practice will travel to patients around the area. It is really fantastic for people who have chronic issues that need attention, and it diverts people away from the emergency department .

The relationship that has been developed with Ambulance Tasmania means that non-urgent ambulance calls that are in the area are referred to the practice for service.

This is obviously a critically valuable model, and we have to rapidly scale it up. It is thanks to the very hard work of the main person who has been driving this, Kerrie Duggan, from the Cygnet Family Practice. She is a nurse practitioner. She has been such a positive force for good in the Cygnet Family Practice and the Cygnet community.

She and the GPs who run the practice together have soldiered on to develop a model of care against some really substantial odds over the last 10 years. As a member of the community I have watched them go through a number of hurdles, try different models with the Huon Valley Council, tried different models with the GPs who have come and gone, but what they provide is safe working conditions for GPs. It provides flexibility for people, recognising the pressures on medical professionals' lives. They have always strived to find a community-centred approach to general practice care, and this is just the latest example. It really is the peak in Australia, and I cannot tell you how proud I am, as the member for Franklin, to be involved in observing this work coming to fruition.

It also gives the opportunity for the Government to step up and do some work that will help roll this out across other communities in Tasmania, and to remove some of the legislative impediments that are in place. It is about opening up pathways for nurse practitioners so they can be available to do the work that their scope of practice provides, and removing some of the hurdles.

We could be following the lead of New Zealand and the United Kingdom, where they have changed all the legislation, regulations, documents and forms that at the moment just allow for a single profession - usually a medical practitioner - to use the words, 'a health professional', and a health professional who is accredited within the scope of practice. That would open the door for nurse practitioners to take on roles in the Tasmanian health service, and outside the health service in private practice, in a way they are not currently able to.

For example, in the United Kingdom, a nurse practitioner can, in aged care, certify death. That is just a small example, but it is really about giving people, who are already trained to a high level, a scope of practice. Removing the legislative barriers. In Tasmania, the legislation needs to be changed for a person to be registered as a health professional, rather than specific legislation that names professions like a medical practitioner, a nurse practitioner, paramedic practitioner, et cetera.

There are a range of forms and documents that need to be changed from 'medical practitioner' to 'health professional'. This is what we need to make innovation easy. It is what we have done in the immunisation act. It is something I will be taking up with the Minister for Health. A group of paramedic practitioners and nurse practitioners in Tasmania have joined together and are seriously trying to break down these legislative barriers to increasing the scope of practice.

There are currently many barriers to people becoming a paramedic practitioner. That means there is no pathway for people who are paramedics. It used to be that Ambulance Tasmania trained people as intensive care paramedics. Being a qualified paramedic was just the first step, but it was only on a pathway to being an ICP, an intensive-care paramedic. There is actually now no training available for intensive paramedics, and both paramedic practitioners ought to be encouraged to work everywhere possible in our health system.