Despite having a disproportionate burden of illness, people living rural and remote communities have poorer access to health services, including to a diverse range of allied health specialist services, than people living in metropolitan areas.
Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH), James Cook University (JCU), Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and state and territory health services are working together in the development of the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway (AHRGP) as a rural or remote focused professional pathway to address this workforce maldistribution. They are working collaboratively toward establishing allied health rural generalists as a core component of high quality multi-disciplinary care in rural and remote health.
Rural generalists exist as a sub-set of allied health professionals that responds to the broad range of healthcare needs of rural and remote communities. Rural allied health generalists have the ability to deliver services that cover clinical presentations from a diverse client profile in a range of healthcare settings including in-hospital, outpatient and community care. In Queensland, rural generalist training positions have been trialled since 2014; they have subsequently been extended to other jurisdictions in 2017.
Julie Hulcombe, Chief Allied Health Officer, Queensland Health said:
“Rural generalist training positions trialled in Queensland since 2014 are showing benefits for health services and local communities. The training positions have designated training time and funding, onsite profession-specific supervision and a formal development plan”.
Since 2013, a collaborative project comprising representatives from the Greater Northern Australian Regional Training Network (GNARTN), Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland, Northern Territory Department of Health, Western Australia Country Health Service, Western Australia Department of Health and SARRAH have been working together on a national strategy and study program for allied health professionals to progress the AHRGP. JCU in partnership with QUT launched the education component of the AHRGP in May 2017.
On the education and strategic components of the AHRGP, Julie said:
“The Rural Generalist Program delivered by JCU in partnership with QUT provides the critical formal education component of the training pathway. The next phase of development for the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway includes the expansion of training positions across Australia as healthcare providers are seeing the workforce and service benefits of the roles. The further roll out of the education program and development of curriculum standards, and an evaluation project that will be completed by early 2020.”
The AHRGP is a critical component of high quality multi-disciplinary healthcare and has broad support across the sector. Associate Professor Bruce Chater OAM, Head of Discipline of Rural and Remote Medicine at the University of Queensland and Secretary of the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) Working Party on Rural Practice said, “the development of a rural generalist pathway for the allied health professions is a critical strategy for ensuring rural and remote communities have access to high quality multi-disciplinary healthcare”.
Development of the AHRGP is currently funded by the Queensland Department of Health and its collaborative partners.
Further information about the AHRGP is available at the SARRAH website: www.sarrah.org.au/ahrgp.