The Australian Government's Outreach Program, administered by RDN in NSW and the ACT, aims to increase access to health services for rural communities and Aboriginal people. This is achieved by:
- delivering clinics that reduce access barriers, including:
- distance and disruption from travel to major centres
- cost and economic hurdles
- cultural safety barriers;
- strengthening local service capacity through upskilling; and
- enhancing service coordination through forming partnerships and developing solutions.
How does it work?
We work in partnership with local organisations to support visiting health practitioners who currently provide over 1,200 outreach services. More than 170 towns and communities in NSW and the ACT receive visiting services that provide more than 200,000 patient occasions of service each year. Over half of these are accessed by Aboriginal patients.
The Outreach program removes some of the most common barriers experienced by many patients through:
- 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 safe 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 safety 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.
- developing partnerships with regional, state and national stakeholders to enhance the coordination of health services, identify priority needs and implement solutions that may include service changes or policy recommendations.
The Outreach Program also provides urban and regionally based health practitioners with the opportunity to experience working in a rural or Aboriginal community, which in some cases has led to 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 60 health organisations that implement the local delivery of outreach services. RDN’s local partners include Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, Local Health Districts, NGOs, hospitals and Primary Health Networks.