As you may have seen, in recent weeks Croakey has been crowd-sourcing ideas for how the general public could be engaged in the planning and development of the new primary health care organisations to be known as Medicare Locals.
The Government’s discussion paper on Medicare Locals highlights the need to improve community engagement in primary health care.
“To date the scope for community input into the planning and key directions of primary health care services at the local level has been limited and inconsistent,” it says.
“For example, currently only around 30 per cent of Divisions of General Practice have a consumer representative on their Board. Where opportunities for community input exist, they have often only involved a sub-set of services available within a community, and limited scope for influencing realignment of resources between alternative priorities.”
As you may recall, the Croakey series on community engagement in Medicare Locals was kicked off by Scott White, communications manager for the Hunter Urban Division of General Practice, also known as GP Access. Below he thanks Croakey contributors for their suggestions.
Scott White writes:
It is easy to see why Melissa Sweet is constantly “banging on” about the power and usefulness of social media when I reflect on the fantastic contributions we have received from our crowdsourcing request for ideas on how Medicare Locals can engage their communities.
It is great to think that you can be sitting in Newcastle, pondering on how to best achieve an outcome, and by sending a request out into the ether you can receive feedback from highly experienced and qualified practitioners and academics.
Can I say thank you to all those who responded and briefly outline where we go from here.
As I noted in my first post, GP Access is a Division of General Practice that has been evolving over many years and we accept that primary health care is much more than general practice
We now have a board that has representatives from outside general practice and our Chair is not a GP.
We appreciate the importance of allied health professionals in primary care and have our own psychology service that assist GPs in accessing mental health services for their patients.
Similarly we also operate a workplace rehabilitation service that employs occupational therapists and exercise physiologists.
Our philosophy has always been to help fill gaps in the health system. This led to the establishment of an after hours GP service over ten years ago that will have its one millionth patient encounter in early 2011.
Our experience in integrating a psychology service into a GP organisation is a good practical example of how multidisciplinary care and cooperation can work in primary health care.
In over five years of operations, GP Access has expanded the breadth of psychological services available to GPs and their patients. We have over 300 GPs referring to our service and target those services to children, adolescents and patients from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds.
Apart from clinical and specialist services we also conduct a Suicide/Self Harm program, a Perinatal Depression Initiative and psychology counselling in Residential Aged Care Facilities.
So while we would not lay claim to be a fully functioning primary health care organisation, I do think we have some solid foundations upon which one could be built.
We are keen to find meaningful ways to involve consumers to help us broaden our organisation and have appreciated the input of others.
We have made a start, albeit it small and we hope to build on our successes and while wishing for perfect community engagement, we will welcome any increase in involvement.
Once again thanks to Croakey contributors and readers for sharing their thoughts and suggestions; Croakey is a resource I plan to use again in the future.
PostScript and declaration: A byproduct of the Croakey series is tht Melissa Sweet will be giving presentations about the media and primary health care on Nov 25 to community events organised in Newcastle by GP Access. Another Croakey contributor, Professor Gavin Mooney, will also be speaking.
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