Recruiting, retaining and supporting General Practitioners (GPs), Nurses and Allied Health Professionals in rural New South Wales, Australia

What is Outreach?

RDN’s Outreach Program supports regional, remote and Aboriginal communities to access a wide range of health services. This is achieved by working in partnership with local organisations to support visiting health practitioners who currently provide over 1,200 outreach services. More than 160 towns and communities in NSW and the ACT receive visiting services that are supported by the Outreach Program.

The aim of the Outreach Program is to increase access to medical, allied health and nursing services for people living in regional and remote towns and Aboriginal communities in both rural and urban locations. Improved access is achieved by removing some of the most common barriers that many patients experience. This is accomplished through the following activities:

  • The provision of services in regional and remote locations and via telehealth to minimise the time, travel cost and disruption often required of patients to access the nearest alternative service that may be hundreds of kilometres away.

  • Prioritising support for services that are bulk-billed or free of charge in order to remove the economic hurdles that rural and Aboriginal patients often face.

  • Delivering culturally fitting services to reduce cultural barriers that are otherwise experienced by many Aboriginal patients. When appropriate, outreach services are hosted by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) and visiting health practitioners are supported to undertake cultural training and local community orientation.

  • Supporting clinical up-skilling sessions that are provided by visiting health practitioners to strengthen the capacity of local health services and practitioners to manage patients’ ongoing care.

In addition to increased patient access, the Outreach Program provides urban and regionally based health practitioners with the opportunity to experience working in a rural or Aboriginal community (and in some cases this has resulted in health practitioners relocating permanently to rural locations). The program also supports students and registrars to participate in outreach clinics and gain exposure to rural and Aboriginal health.

RDN holds partnerships with more than 50 health organisations that implement the local delivery of outreach services. RDN’s local partners include ACCHSs, Local Health Districts, PHNs and hospitals.

RDN’s Outreach Program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and currently comprises four individual programs. Information about each program, their focus and eligibility is provided below.

What outreach programs are there?

Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOF) - An outreach program that supports multidisciplinary teams and individual health practitioners to provide services to regional or remote communities within ASGC-RA 2-5 locations. RHOF services focus on the following health needs:

  • Maternity and paediatric health
  • Eye health
  • Mental health
  • Support for chronic disease management.

RHOF Service Delivery Standards

Medical Outreach Indigenous Chronic Disease Program (MOICDP) - An outreach program that supports multidisciplinary teams and individual health practitioners to provide services to Aboriginal patients in regional, remote and urban locations (ASGC-RA 1-5). MOICDP focuses on addressing chronic conditions that have been or are likely to be present for six months or more.

MOICDP Service Delivery Standards
Addendum to MOICDP Service Delivery Standards

Healthy Ears, Better Hearing, Better Listening (HEBHBL) - An outreach program that funds multidisciplinary teams and individual health practitioners to support the prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and management of ear health and hearing conditions in Aboriginal children and youth (up to 21 years). Aboriginal communities located in regional, remote and urban areas (ASGC-RA 1-5) are eligible to receive HEBHBL services.

HEBHBL Service Delivery Standards

Visiting Optometrist Scheme (VOS) - First established in 1975, VOS supports optometrists to deliver outreach optometric services to remote and very remote locations, and rural communities with an identified need for optometric services. VOS was expanded in 2009-10 to provide increased optometry services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

VOS Service Delivery Standards

What is an ASGC-RA score?

The Australian Standard Geographical Classification - Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) is a geographical classification system that was developed in 2001 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The RA categories are defined in terms of ‘remoteness’ i.e. the physical distance of a location from the nearest urban centre (access to goods and services) based on population size. You can find out the ASGC-RA score of your town by searching the map at DoctorConnect.