Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Practice nurse involvement in general practice clinical care: policy and funding issues need resolution

Hossein Haji Ali Afzali A C , Jonathan Karnon A , Justin Beilby B , Jodi Gray A , Christine Holton A and David Banham A
+ Author Affliations
- Author Affliations

A Department of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, 178 North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia. Email: jonathan.karnon@adelaide.edu.au; jodi.gray@adelaide.edu.au; christine.holton@adelaide.edu.au; david.banham@sahmri.com

B Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Adelaide, 178 North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia. Email: justin.beilby@adelaide.edu.au

C Corresponding author. Email: hossein.hajialiafzali@adelaide.edu.au

Australian Health Review 38(3) 301-305 https://doi.org/10.1071/AH13187
Submitted: 2 October 2013  Accepted: 14 March 2014   Published: 29 May 2014

Abstract

In Australia, primary care-based funding initiatives have been implemented to encourage general practices to employ practice nurses. The aim of this paper is to discuss limitations of the current funding and policy arrangements in enhancing the clinical role of practice nurses in the management of chronic conditions. This paper draws on the results of a real-world economic evaluation, the Primary Care Services Improvement Project (PCSIP). The PCSIP linked routinely collected clinical and resource use data to undertake a risk-adjusted cost-effectiveness analysis of increased practice nurse involvement in clinical-based activities for the management of diabetes and obesity. The findings of the PCSIP suggested that the active involvement of practice nurses in collaborative clinical-based activities is cost-effective, as well as addressing general practice workforce issues. Although primary healthcare organisations (e.g. Medicare Locals) can play a key role in supporting enhanced practice nurse roles, improvements to practice nurse funding models could further encourage more efficient use of an important resource.

What is known about the topic? There is evidence that the increased involvement of practice nurses in clinical-based activities in the management of patients with chronic conditions (e.g. diabetes and obesity) is cost-effective. The Australian Government has implemented financial incentives to encourage general practices to recruit nurses and to expand nursing roles within collaborative models of care. There is currently insufficient engagement of practice nurses in clinical care.

What does this paper add? This paper summarises evidence regarding the value of an enhanced practice nurse role in Australian general practice, and discusses refinements to current funding arrangements for practice nurses.

What are the implications for practitioners? Delegating clinical role (e.g. patient education and monitoring clinical progress) to practice nurses in the management of patients with chronic conditions can improve clinical outcomes without adversely affecting general practice business models.


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